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The Thomas H. Manning Polar Archives

The Thomas H. Manning Polar Archives

The Institute's archive holds one of the largest collections of manuscript and other unpublished material relating to the Arctic and Antarctic regions, and to many persons who have lived and worked there.

Please be aware that access to the archive is by prior appointment only and you will need to reserve a readers desk.

Finding Aids

Online catalogue: You can search our catalogues through the Archives Portal Europe.

The catalogue entries are listed alphabetically and will provided detailed listings for each item.

You can also find us on the Archives Hub.

This is a national gateway to archives across UK universities and colleges. Our listings can be found by searching by personal name or expedition.

You will also be able to find collections held in other archives beyond SPRI by using these sites.

Published Catalogue:

Manuscripts in the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge, England by Clive Holland (London and New York, Garland Publishing, ISBN 0 8240 9394 1). Published in 1982.


The Special Collections Access Policy which covers the archive and the libraries special collection is available from the Archive staff, who can also advise on particular fields of investigation.

Prior to vist the archive it is necessary to make an appointment to reserve a readers desk.

Requests for further information should be made to the Archive staff.

Mission Statement

The Thomas H Manning Polar Archives and SPRI Picture Library aims to provide a detailed insight of British polar activities relating to the science, exploration, history, geography, environment, business and administration of the Arctic and Antarctic undertaken by British expeditions, explorers, businesses and Government.

This is achieved by collecting, documenting, preserving, exhibiting and interpreting archive and photographic collections.

The Archives and Picture Library are open to anyone wishing to carry out research into any aspect of the Polar Regions.

Scope and content of the Archives

The archive collects original material relating primarily to British Expeditions and British Explorers.

The Antarctic papers cover all parts of the continent and surrounding islands.

The Arctic papers cover primarily the exploration of northern Canada, Greenland and Svalbard.

Working with our Archive Collections

Please be aware that a collection may not be "Complete", just because a series of documents and maps exist for one expedition does not mean all expeditions will have retained the same items, similarly collections created by individuals can vary widely.

Other SPRI resources

The Library:

The Institute also houses the world's most comprehensive Arctic and Antarctic library. Readers using the archives also have access to this published material, including the large collection of published maps and charts.

The Picture Library:

Home to the photographic collection. To arrange access or discuss the photographic collections please contact the Picture Library Manager.

The Art Collection:

Appointments to access the art collection for research purposes can be made via the archives online booking request form.

You can search and view the catalogue online.

The Polar Museum:

The museum is open Tuesday to Saturday 10am to 4pm (except Bank Holiday weekends) entry is free.

For enquiries regarding the collection including material not on display, please contact the Museum.


The material held in the Archive has been received from a large variety of sources. This includes gifts and loans. Recent important additions demonstrate the continued generosity of several benefactors. Other material is sometimes acquired by purchase. Prices for items with polar interest are high and increasing, thus fund raising forms a substantial part of the Institute's work and is a significant problem for the collections.


Detailed chronologies of Arctic and Antarctic exploration, largely based on SPRI records include:

  • The exploration of northern Canada by Alan Cooke and Clive Holland; (Toronto, Arctic History Press, ISBN 0 7710 2265 4)
  • Arctic exploration and development c.500 B.C. to 1915 by Clive Holland; (New York and London, Garland Press, ISBN 0 8240 7648 6)
  • A Chronology of Antarctic exploration by Robert Headland; (London, Bernard Quaritch Ltd, ISBN 978-0-9550852-8-4)