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Polar Bytes - No. 17, January 2001

Polar Bytes - No. 17, January 2001

A few words from our Chairman, Philippa Foster Back

Firstly, best wishes for the New Year! We have a bumper newsletter for you today - see William Mill's contribution.

I am happy to report the appointment of a new Secretary to the Friends, Mrs Ann Bean, who can be contacted by post via the SPRI. We welcome her to the Friends.

At the AGM, which was attended by 80 members I announced the new members of the Committee, Mrs Philippa Smith and Mr Keith Holmes, see below, following the completion of Derek Fordham's and my own terms of office. The new Committee will choose its Chairman shortly.

The figures for last year (ending July 2000) were excellent thanks to donations/legacies totalling 7,000. Total profit after costs were 21,715 against the previous year total of 9,980. Video sales (new this year) were a real winner! However we need to keep this up so please continue to find Friends to join us and do consider us should you win the lottery!

Unfortunately there was no uptake for the Spitzbergen trip so there will not be a Friends trip this summer. I will investigate as to what discounts might be available on an Antarctic trip next season.

A date for your diary is June 9th for the Friends lunch at Girton. William Mills is organising an event to coincide with this date, more details to follow in due course.

This year will be busy at SPRI, not only due to the activities of the MPhil and PhD students but because the Institute is to undertake a major fundraising to underpin (on an endowment basis) the work in the Library, Archives and Museum. There will be more information available when the fundraising is launched.


Mrs Philippa Smith has had associations with the Institute since 1972 and was until recently Picture Library Manager. In recent years the Picture Library has been a successful element in promoting the Institute which was largely down to Philippa's efforts. She now works for the University Press Office.

Mr Keith Holmes spent a winter at Stonington Island when a geologist with BAS in 1965/66. He moved to Shell where he worked for 20 years prior to his recent retirement. He has set himself the task of chronicling parts of the FIDS/BAS survey achievements.

Antarctic Virtual Museum

Those of you who have visited the wonderful exhibitions South: the race to the Pole at the National Maritime Museum and Shackleton at Dulwich College, may have considered just how much more wonderful still it would be if a means could be found to bring together permanently all artifacts associated with the great expeditions of the Heroic Era of Antarctic Exploration. This is the dream of the Antarctic Virtual Museum, and the advent of the Internet makes it a practicable possibility. The aim of our project is to bring together on the Institute's website, images of all artifacts -including equipment, paintings, photographs, and, in time, even diaries, associated with or resulting from the Heroic Era expeditions. The images would be accompanied by annotations describing the objects shown and linked to other relevant images and sources of information. What a wonderful resource this would be for schools, and how, fascinating for all those interested in Antarctica!

Needless to say, this is a very ambitious project and one which will take substantial work and funding. Already, however, a start has been made. Friends attending last year's Lunch at Girton College may recall John Heap's announcement of a grant to the project from the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust. Thanks to this, we have managed to photograph a good proportion of the Institute's own collections and to word-process much of the Museum card catalogue as an initial source for the annotations to accompany the images. Much, much more remains to be done. Items in other public collections must be identified and photographed; and contact made with individuals owning Heroic Era artifacts, many of which remain in private ownership. Only for publicly-owned artifacts will locations be given of where the originals are located, privately-owned items will simply be recorded as 'In private ownership'. We don't wish to encourage the wrong kind of interest! Much more too needs to be done before the Institute's own holdings can be displayed: the entire collection of relevant items must be digitally photographed, not too great a task perhaps for equipment, clothing, etc., but vast when one considers photographs and paintings. The Institute has nearly 1,000 paintings and drawings by Edward Wilson alone, and how much should we like to be able to display these to all by means of the Internet!

If this is a project which catches your imagination, or in which you think you might be able to help, please contact William Mills, Keeper and Librarian. We are not just looking for funding, though this is always essential. If you know of relevant artifacts, please tell us, since it is more than likely that we will not know already. If you have suggestions to offer, relevant experience, or just spare time, all will gratefully be appreciated. William may be contacted by phone on 01223-336557, e-mail at or by post to the Institute.

Picture Library

Those making contact with the Picture Library in recent weeks will be pleased to have confirmed that Lucy Martin is to take over from Philippa Smith as Picture Library Manager. She has been doing this job in an acting capacity since mid-September, but from 1 February will take up the post permanently, or in as permanent a capacity as any job can be which is self-funding! Philippa's shoes will be hard to fill, but we have high expectations of Lucy who has become something of a fixture in the Institute in recent years, first as a volunteer, then as Picture Library Assistant, and then helping William Mills and Bob Headland in the Antarctic Virtual Museum Project, before filling the gap left by Philippa. Lucy has a History degree and a diploma in Museum and Gallery Studies from St. Andrews University, so she is certainly well-qualified to look after the Institute's magnificent collection of historic and more recent photographs, conservation being one of her particular interests.

Oral History Program

Isabella Warren is looking for volunteers to watch a number of recently edited videos carried out in a spate of interviews last summer. What is needed is someone to carefully record any 'glitches' in the edited version. For example, in the editing, occasionally a question might be omitted making the resulting conversation unclear. Basically, we are looking for any obvious errors which might deprive future viewers from fully understanding these historically important videos. My experience is that the quality of the editing is generally very high but we do need to check. No special skills are required from volunteers other than time and availability. Since the videos can be posted, the Institute will pay for return postage - you don't need to live near Cambridge in order to help. If you would like to do this, please let Isabella know. Her phone number is 01223-336565. (William Mills)

SPRI Museum

Amunden's flag left at the South Pole in 1911 and recovered by Scott's Expedition in 1912, lent to the National Maritime Museum for their special exhibition "South: The Race to the Pole" was returned to the Institute in early December and is now back on display. The NMM exhibition is on until September 2001.(Bob Headland)

Membership Matters

Thank you for sending in your subscriptions so promptly. If you think your membership is due or your banker's order will expire you can contact me on or 01223 336562 (am). (Jennifer Dale)

Polar Paraphenalia

Following David Wilson's lecture to the Friends last year, you may like to know the paperback book "Cheltenham in Antarctica (The Life of Edward Wilson)" by D Wilson and D Elder, is available at a cost of 10.99. Royalties from this book will benefit the Wilson Collection Fund at the Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museums which helps to preserve the Wilson family archive.


Writer seeks to relocate to Cambridge January 2001. Needs quiet, self contained space/flat, furnished/unfurnished. House-sit also considered. Please ring Stephanie on 020 7385 4847.