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Polar Bytes - No. 31, April 2004

Polar Bytes - No. 31, April 2004

A few words from the Chairman, David Wilson:

It has been another successful Antarctic season, with a particularly good year for whale sightings noted from numerous ships. As I write, the Arctic season is already underway. Those Arctic terns are heading back past our coast from the Antarctic towards their Arctic breeding grounds. Indeed, our Director headed their way for a while, having just returned from a field trip to Svalbard, although he was more interested in glaciers than terns, I suspect. We have had staff both South and North in the last while and it is pleasing to note that the scientific projects of the Institute proceed apace. The work of our current scientists is also gaining increasing plaudits.

I am also pleased to note that every talk during the Lent Term Friends lecture series was fully attended and much appreciated. It is a delight to see the Friends so active - and I look forward to seeing many of you at the Summer Lunch!

I would be misleading you, however, if I suggested that life was straightforward at the Institute at present. So it is on the subject of the Institute itself that my 'few words' must this time be addressed. The many years of diminishing finances in the library and archives are biting. They have been hurting for a while but now they are biting. The library has been unable to secure the funding to continue the position of Scandinavian bibliographer at the present time. This has led to considerable anxiety as to the future. It is precisely to deal with this ever encroaching crisis that the Library and Archives appeal was launched a couple of years ago - to provide endowment funding to underwrite the necessary running costs for the library and archives (staff salaries, purchase of library books, purchase of archive materials, modernisation of Museum displays etc.). However, we are still searching for major benefactors - endowment funding for running costs is notoriously tricky to raise money for.

This situation has led to our most recent committee meeting being one in which we had to 'bite the bullet' on your behalf. The financial difficulties of the day to day running costs are proving serious and the Friends are increasingly being asked to shoulder the burden. We all hope that this will only be a temporary necessity, as the appeal increasingly succeeds. The committee is well aware that the wishes of many of the Friends are to provide the 'extras' rather than the day to day running costs of the Institute - this is not a road that we would wish to go down very far - but what are we to do? We must help to pull the Institute Library and Archives through this difficult patch. The Friends are currently supporting the library's book acquisitions to the tune of £5000 per year - whilst permanent funding is acquired. We also underwrote the shop, in order to support it through its initial phases - and this is now most successful. In this vein, the Friends received a request by the Director to provide £10,000, if necessary, for each of the next three years, to be used as 'matching funding' in order to secure certain grants towards staff salaries in the library and archives. The 'if necessary' is important - it means that it won't be used unless the alternative is the loss of a key staff member. The committee unanimously agreed to make the sum available for this year, if there was really no alternative. There is no point in having a library and archives without staff. We also promised £15,000 towards the acquisition of the diary of Lieut. Albert Armitage, second in command of the National Antarctic Expedition aboard Discovery - and the discoverer of the Antarctic Polar Plateau. This has unexpectedly come up for sale and is a most important diary. Again, this sum may or may not be used, it will depend on the turn of events. With projects for the restoration of photographs in the Picture Library and the restoration of the Shackleton Clock (inscribed "To the Boss from the Boys") for the Shackleton exhibition, the Friends have made available a sum of just over £30,000 in support of the work of the Institute this year. Everyone involved is greatly appreciative of the support that the Friends are giving, which is simply critical at this time. Very many thanks to you all for your part in this.

However, as you will realise, we cannot carry on spending at this kind of level - we are having to dig deep into our financial reserves. The committee took the view, however, that reserves were for assisting in a crisis - and we reckoned that this was pretty much it.

I would be failing in my job as chairman, however, if I wasn't fretting a little bit over this. Our fundraising efforts are going towards the Library and Archives appeal - about which more in a moment - and this means that we cannot fund-raise towards our own Friends reserves. What we can do to improve our finances, however, is to increase our membership.

I think that in almost every Polar Bytes we have asked our members to recruit new members. Our 'Friend find a Friend' campaign, as my predecessor, Philippa Foster-Back called it. However, our membership has been stubbornly remaining at around 500 members for some time. This request has never been more serious - and to make life easy for you, we enclose a photocopy of the relevant membership forms from the membership pack on an A4 sheet (we thought that you could tell your friends the rest). Please copy them and distribute them with zeal! This is a simple thing to do. It is only by recruiting new Friends that we will be able to continue our high level of support for the Institute at this critical time.

If these difficulties weren't enough, I am also sorry to have to report to the Friends the illness and sudden departure of William Mills, who was Librarian and Keeper of Collections. This is a very sad loss to us all. Bob Headland has kindly agreed to take over the running of the Friend's lecture series for the time being - and we are very grateful to Bob for this.

The Friends can, I am sure, imagine the impact on staff working hours and morale as the result of the loss of key colleagues, through financial uncertainties and illness. The committee therefore asked me to write to the staff of the library and archives to express solidarity in these difficult times on behalf of the Friends and this I was happy to do. A copy of the letter is enclosed.

The committee also discussed at length, what we thought the membership would wish us to do in the light of William's illness and sudden departure. We have therefore decided to re-focus and re-double our fund-raising efforts towards the Library and Archives appeal in William's honour. The Friends are therefore launching the William Mills Library Acquisitions Fund Appeal, to endow a fund in William's honour, which will provide endowment funding for the purchase of library books etc. This has many virtues. It gives us a realistic fund-raising target (which to date we have lacked) and in the long term, it should also ease the recurring demands on Friend's finances towards essential library purchases. Most importantly, however, it honours one of our dearest Friends. A separate letter is enclosed on this subject and the committee is hopeful of your full support in this fund-raising effort.

So, there we have it - difficult times - and I hope that you will feel that your committee has risen to the occasion appropriately. We hope that you will feel able to do the same. I, personally, have never had greater confidence in the Friends and cannot recall a time when we were doing more in support of the Institute. So I am fully confident that we will pull through these difficulties in style - and so help to pull the Institute through these difficulties - but that, of course, is up to you.

The Friends Summer Lunch

The Friends Summer Lunch will be held on Saturday June 5th from 12.00 noon at the Institute. Following comments from last years lunch, we will try to provide better seating arrangements in the lecture hall. A booking form for luncheon tickets is enclosed. This timing is slightly earlier in the day than usual and is to allow time for book browsing (see the separate notice regarding our Polar Book Den) and socialising. Please don't forget to bring your unwanted polar books. Numerous people are quite excited about this prospect even before this announcement was made - and the Friends have already received several donations of Polar books outright, from those who did not wish to make a little back on their previous purchases. The Summer Lunch will also feature a talk by Bob Headland on the hidden treasures from the archives in the Shackleton Exhibition - and he has hinted that we might even get to hear the chimes of the Shackleton clock, since the Friends were good enough to pay for its refurbishment! The opening of the exhibition has been delayed, due to current circumstances at the Institute, but it will open shortly and the Summer Lunch is an excellent opportunity for the Friends to view it. We look forward to seeing you.

Appeal Update

The Library and Archives appeal currently stands at a figure of £31,771.50 towards the total endowment requirement of £5 million. Much of this has been raised by the Friends. Your generosity is greatly appreciated. The search for major benefactors continues.

As you will see from the separate letter enclosed with this issue of Polar Bytes, the committee has decided to launch a Friends appeal in honour of William Mills (see separate letter) and we request that support from the Friends for the Library and Archives appeal now be directed to the Mills Fund. The Mills Fund will meet a part of the endowment objectives of the main appeal and gives the Friends a realistic fundraising objective.

As a result, we are now seeking to raise an initial £50,000 to endow the William Mills Library Acquisitions Fund. That is equivalent to us raising £100 for every current Friend, or £1,000 each from 50 of our wealthier members. All contributions, are, of course, very welcome - as are all ideas for fund-raising. Please contact David Wilson, the chairman, with the latter. This is by far the largest sum that we have ever tried to raise but the Committee feels confident that the membership will wish to see it achieved!

Passing Friends

We are very sorry to note the deaths of the following Friends: Graham Rowley, from Canada, an overseas supporter for several years. David Powell, who was a dedicated Friends volunteer at the Institute, in particular in the picture library where the photographic cataloguing owes much to his dedication. He was also active in the Arctic Club and RGS. We are also sorry to note the death of Virginia (Ginny), Lady Fiennes, who was a holder of the Polar Medal in her own right and organised many of Sir Ranulph's exploratory feats. Our condolences are extended to their families.

New friends

A very warm welcome is extended to all of our new Friends.

The Institute shop

The Institute shop is pleased to announce that it is able to offer a 15% discount on the retail price of £149.95 for the recently published Exploring Polar Frontiers: A Historical Encyclopedia by William Mills. The Encyclopaedia comes in 2 volumes and is on offer from the shop at £128.50 (plus p&p). William's book has recently won the 2004 Outstanding Alaskana Award (an annual award made by the Alaska Library Association for reference works judged most helpful for the state) - and we extend many congratulations to William for this achievement. Please contact Francesca Franco, shop manager, if you wish to place an order - or if you wish to browse the many other items now available in the shop.

A few words from the Secretary, Ann Bean

Friends paying subscriptions by Banker's Order with Gift Aid, (who signed the new blue Banker's Order last year), may wish to check that their bank has the correct order in place. We have received several duplicated payments, some payments made against the old orders and some not made at all. Current gift aided payments should be made to the Cambridge Foundation account. Many thanks to those of you who have donated duplicate payments to Friends Funds.

Some dates for the diary:

At the Institute:

  1. Shackleton: the Hidden Collection, at the Institute from 6th May 2004
  2. Autumn 2004. An exhibition of paintings of South Georgia by Mollie Sheridan in honour of the centenary of the founding of Grytviken.
  3. Saturday 13th November Friends AGM and Buffet Supper

'Discovery' Centenary:

  • 19th-27th June 'Discovery Week' at Dundee - numerous events to celebrate the return of the 'Discovery' expedition in 1904.
  • Saturday 18th September a major centenary dinner to celebrate the return of the 'Discovery' will be held as a fundraiser for RRS 'Discovery' at Christie's, London. Further details of Dinner or 'Discovery Week'
  • 28th-30th June an International Symposium "A Century of Discovery: Antarctic Exploration and the Southern Ocean" at the Southampton Oceanography Centre.

In Plymouth:

A ceremony to commemorate the death of the Polar party and to celebrate the refurbishment of the Scott Memorial in Devonport, will be held on Sunday 6th June at 2pm. For further details contact .

In London:

Natural History Museum, London, until 1st August. Due South: Art and the Antarctic, an exhibition by John Kelly who went south with BAS as part of the Artists and Writers Programme. Further details 020 7942 5000 or The exhibition will transfer to the Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum early next year, when some of Edward Wilson's Antarctic paintings will also be on show.

I look forward to seeing you at the Lunch in June and hope you will find some bargains in the Book Den.

The William Mills Library Acquisitions Fund Appeal

William Mills has been a stalwart of the Scott Polar Research Institute and of the Friends. He is well known to us as the organiser of our lecture series, as a leading polar librarian, bibliographer, and member of the Polar Libraries Colloquy. He is also a very good friend to many people throughout the world. His many kindnesses have greatly benefited the Polar world - and beyond. His latest book Exploring Polar Frontiers, a major reference work, has just been published.

It is with considerable sadness, therefore, that we learn that William has been taken seriously ill and is unable to continue his work as Keeper of Collections and Librarian at the Institute, quite unexpectedly. He has also had to cease all of his activities for the Friends. I am sure that the thoughts and prayers of all of us are with William and his young family (Dione, and the children, Jackie, Tony and John). Numerous messages of support have been forwarded from the Institute.

William's work is valued around the world and he has many friends who will miss him. In the light of this news, there has therefore been a developing discussion as to how we might best honour William's considerable achievements and continue his work, now that he is unable. It has been generally expressed that it should be an ongoing, tangible acknowledgement of his contribution to the Institute and in particular, to the Library: something that captures the quietly supportive and positive spirit with which William inspires us all.

It is, perhaps, surprising that the world's leading Polar Library has, to date, been functioning on a rather ad hoc basis. It is no secret that much of William's time as Librarian has been spent in trying to scrape together the funds to support the basic functioning of the library: book acquisitions, staff salaries etc. It is to meet these everyday requirements that the Institute launched its Library and Archives Appeal, so that endowment funding will provide for such items in the future and staff time can be better spent. William, of course, is one of the architects of this appeal and has been actively working through it to secure the future of the SPRI Library and Archives. It seems to many of us, therefore, that any honouring of William's work should be achieved within the objects of the Institute's Library and Archives appeal.

It has therefore been decided, after discussion with William and with his blessing, to launch the William Mills Library Acquisitions Fund. This will be an endowment fund, the income from which will be used to purchase books, periodicals and maps for the library of the Scott Polar Research Institute. Once functioning, this will meet a part of the objects of the Library and Archives appeal, in William's honour.

The Friends of the Scott Polar Research Institute are launching this Fund with an appeal. Our initial target is to raise £50,000. Your contribution will be greatly appreciated.

Contributions (payable to the University of Cambridge) should be sent to:

The William Mills Library Acquisitions Fund Appeal,
c/o the Friends Secretary,
Scott Polar Research Institute,
Lensfield Road, Cambridge CB2 1ER

The Library and Archives Staff,
Scott Polar Research Institute,

29th March 2004

Dear all,

At the recent committee meeting of the SPRI Friends, it was resolved that I should write to all the library and archives staff on behalf of the Friends. We felt that we would like to express our solidarity with you all through these unfortunate days and to let you know that we are both thinking about you and appreciating all of your efforts.

The Friends are only too aware of the current difficulties that you are having in fulfilling your respective roles due to the uncertainties created by the absence of the Keeper of Collections/Librarian and the uncertainties relating to funding and tenure. We appreciate the long hours that many of you are undertaking as a result of this situation, which are adding to the emotional strain of losing a dear friend and colleague. Further, we understand that this comes on top of several years of strain.

Nevertheless, the Friends remain confident that we will achieve success with the Library and Archives appeal which will alleviate many of the root causes of current distress. In the interim we are trying to do everything that we can to achieve both success in the appeal and to support you all through the bad times. At our recent meeting, it was resolved to pledge a sum of £28,350 to the Institute, which takes our level of support for the current financial year to around £31,000. This sum is to support purchases, restoration projects and to provide matching funding in support of staff posts in the library and archives, should it be needed. Clearly, we are digging deep into our financial reserves in order to do this but we rather feel that this is what the reserves are for - to provide for your hour of need. We have also offered Friends 'working parties' if you feel that these would be of immediate assistance to help stay on top of things.

If there is anything else that you feel that the Friends could be doing to assist you at this time, please do not hesitate to let us know. In the meantime, we wish you all well.

With warmest salutations,

Dr D. M. Wilson FZS
Chairman, Friends of SPRI


The Polar Book DEN

Friends of SPRI Are pleased to announce: The Polar Book DEN.

Many Friends have unwanted polar books sitting upon their shelves (duplicates etc.). Many Friends are seeking to buy polar books.

The Friends are therefore pleased to announce the inauguration of the Polar Book Den, to take place during the Summer Lunch at the Scott Polar Research Institute on Saturday June 5th from 12 noon.

If you have any unwanted polar books that you would like to sell, please sort them out, price them at a 'friendly' level and bring them with you to the summer lunch. All we ask is that you donate 20% of any sales that you make to the Friends.

On arrival vendors will prepare a sales form for insertion in each book and be issued with a named envelope. Purchasers will complete the sales form and place it, together with payment, in the vendor's envelope.

If you have several books and would like to prepare the sales forms in advance please write to 'SPRI Book Den' at the Institute, stating the number of forms you require (you may photocopy the form if preferred) enclosing an SAE large enough to take A5.

Friends Summer Lunch

The Friends Summer Lunch will take place at the Institute on Saturday 5th June 2004. As last year it will be a stand-up fork buffet but this time we will be providing some seating at tables - this will be limited though due to the lack of space available.

The programme:

12.00pm Sherry Reception
Book Sale (See above)
12.45pm Lunch
2.30pm Shackleton: The Hidden Collection - Bob Headland

Tickets are £20 per person and must be paid for in advance. Please send a stamped addressed envelope together with the form and your remittance - making the cheque payable to University of Cambridge a/c YQ, to:-

Mrs A Bean
88 Merton Avenue
UB10 9BL.

Telephone: 01895 271141

We do hope that you will be able to join us at the lunch. Regrettably there is no car parking space available at the Institute but there is a public car park close by in Queen Anne's Terrace.

Friends Summer Lunch

To be held at the Scott Polar Research Institute on Saturday 5th June 2004


Please forward ....... ticket/s to me at the address below. I enclose £...........


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