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SPRI Review 2011: The Thomas H Manning Polar Archives

The Thomas H Manning Polar Archives

This year has seen several anniversaries, each of which has allowed the archive collections to reach a wider audience. The year started with the 75th Anniversary of the British Graham Land Expedition, 1934-37, and it was a pleasure to welcome descendants to the reading room to look through the papers we hold for this expedition. In September we celebrated the centenary of Edward Whymper, whose papers, including his alpine and Greenland diaries, we hold.

The centenary celebrations for the Terra Nova Expedition, 1910-13, have provided an opportunity to showcase some of the treasures of the Archives through the “These Rough Notes” museum exhibition. Diaries, letters, reports and maps all help to tell the story of the expedition from the first public appeal for funds through to the public lecture given by Teddy Evans at the Queen’s Hall after the return to Britain.

Away from the Institute, archive material including letters from Terra Nova chief Stoker William Lashly, telegrams from Sir Ernest Shackleton, and an Inuit vocabulary notebook by Arctic explorer George Back, were loaned to the National Maritime Museum in Cornwall. Charles Wright’s ice notes, which were on display in Australia, have returned ready for their inclusion at the Natural History Museum’s forthcoming Terra Nova exhibition where they will be joined by one of Captain Scott’s last letters and reproductions of some of the maps from our collections. One of the treasures from the archives, the South Pole journal of Henry Bowers, was prepared for publication; thanks are due to Louise Watling and Alison Jolly for their work on the text.

Over 500 half-day archive bookings were made by researchers during 2011, and more than 1,700 documents were requested. The Archive volunteers - Sally Stonehouse, Deirdre Hanna and Michael Laughton – have provided invaluable assistance. This year they were joined by two work-placement students over the summer; Tom Sherwin and William Wright. Lynn Russell also assisted with a transcription project.

Naomi Boneham