Americas and Oceania Collections blog

Exploring the Library’s collections from the Americas and Oceania

29 posts categorized " Official Publications"

10 July 2013

Eisenhower and European Integration

 Letters between eisenhower on Coal & Steel

The British Library recently made available the digitised contents of the EU Bookshop via its catalogue: Explore the British Library now provides free access to a range of digitised official publications produced by the European Union (and its previous incarnations) from the mid 1950s up to the present day.

Why would this be of relevance to our Americas blog I hear you ask? Firstly, I hope to make the wider research community aware of the development since there is a wide range of interesting and informative material available on the subject of European integration. But I’m also taking the opportunity to share an interesting primary source that I’ve discovered from within the EU Bookshop collection:  

Correspondence between President Eisenhower and Presidents of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Congress of the United States about the European Coal and Steel Community and the European unification. 

This 1953 publication (issued in both English and French), offers an insight to the views of President Eisenhower and the members of the U.S. Congressional Foreign Affairs Committee on the prospect of the Coal and Steel Community growing into a wider European community. All parties were keen that this transformation 'may be speedily developed, ratified and put into force.' (Resolution of 16 June 1953 by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives).  

The final part of the document is a communiqué issued from the White House on 3 June 1953, following a meeting held between President Eisenhower and Jean Monnet, the economist and diplomat regarded as the chief architect of European unity, Franz Etzel, and Dirk Pieter Spierenburg. The text notes that while in Europe Eisenhower’s 'experience there convinced him that the uniting of Europe is a historic necessity for the peace and prosperity of Europeans and of the world.' In addition, the document states that in the U.S. 'in the field of coal and steel the barriers, which have so long divided Europe, have been removed so that those basic materials enjoy a single market of 155 million consumers...'

The sentiments articulated in the document echo over time. In recent years I’ve attended many talks and lectures organised by our Eccles Centre for American Studies, and delivered by a range of U.S. statesmen and diplomats. One common and ongoing thread in these events has been the importance of the transatlantic relationship between Europe and U.S. 

To close, in a piece on the U.S. and the European Union, I must mention the fine work of the University of Pittsburgh’s Archive of European Integration to disseminate European Union documentation.


27 June 2013

Bert the Turtle: or, how they learned to stop worrying and love the bomb

 Bert, the Turtle: ‘The Duck and Cover Song’ Leon Carr, Leo Corday & Leo Langlois. 1953 © Sheldon Music Inc

Bert, the Turtle: ‘The Duck and Cover Song’, Leon Carr, Leo Corday & Leo Langlois. 1953 © Sheldon Music Inc.

Bert, the Turtle: ‘The Duck and Cover Song’ Leon Carr, Leo Corday & Leo Langlois. 1953 © Sheldon Music Inc

If you’ve been to our exhibition Propaganda: power and persuasion you will probably have spotted the cute character above and you might have listened to the accompanying recording of the Duck and Cover song. Bert also features in the Duck and Cover film. I’m sure I’m not alone in wondering how on earth Bert’s capers and ducking under your school desk could ever have been considered sufficient protection against the blast of a nuclear bomb – after all, the film and song came out in 1951, well after the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. So I started to do a bit of reading to find out more. The subject is obviously much too big and complex for a simple blogpost so I’m just going to note a few of the things I discovered and point to some further reading for anyone who is as intrigued as me at just what kind of collective delusion (or what Peter Boyer has described as the ‘big sleep’) was going on in the Cold War U.S. of the early 1950s.

In August 1949 the Soviet Union conducted its first successful nuclear test, and ‘America’s unique physical security,’ as President Eisenhower had described it, changed forever. During WWII, ‘civil defence’ had meant black-out drills, learning how to conserve scarce resources, planting ‘victory gardens,’ raising money through war bonds, and Rosie the Riveter (many examples of which are to be found in our exhibition). But the new threat from weapons capable of flattening U.S. cities meant that civil defence had to be re-defined, and initially at least, the education system was considered to offer the perfect conduit for transmitting the required message. ‘Education is our first line of defense. In the conflict of principle and policy which divides the world today, America’s hope, our hope, the hope of the world, is education.’ said President Truman in 1949. In January 1951 he announced the formation of a new federal agency – the Federal Civil Defense Administration (FCDA). Its role was to be both supervisory and ‘inspirational’, but responsibility for implementing (and funding) its programmes was left to individual states. Although TV (still in its infancy and not in all homes), was used for dissemination of some information, the FCDA preferred radio, print and film, and most of its output was aimed at the public school system. So, the early fifties represent a very specific period in the history of education in U.S. schools – when national defence and education were inextricably linked (leading to the National Defense Education Act of 1958), and teachers provided bomb threat and civil defence training to children, – and through the children, their parents.

One key thing to note is that training wasn't about the technology of the bomb or what happened when it went off, but more about how to behave, emphasising the ‘3 Rs’ –Rights, Respects, and Responsibilities. According to the New York Board of Education, ‘the child should know what to do in school, at home, in the street, or in the playground. He should be trained in self-reliance, imbued with faith in his ability to survive, no matter what the danger.’  According to the FCDA, ‘Like the A-bomb, panic is fissionable. It can produce a chain reaction more deeply destructive than any explosive known.’ To gain the support of parents, letters were sent to homes to reassure them, citing ‘competent experts’ in the atomic field. For example, parents in Los Angeles were told, ‘As devastating as the atomic bomb is, there is no evidence to justify a feeling of hopelessness in the event of such a bombing.’ There in fact seems to have been an amazing lack of public information on the effects of the bomb in the early 1950s –with the Atomic Energy Commission actively minimising the known effects of radiation. In addition, JoAnne Brown notes that virtually no factual material on the effects of an atomic bomb appeared in educational journals in the 1950s or in history text books. This, together with the over-riding emphasis on controlling panic, of being alert but not alarmed,  starts to make the idea of ‘duck and cover’ as a strategy look just a little more understandable.   

Several types of air raid drill were introduced – ‘duck and cover’ being the most common (and best remembered), but there were also advance warning drills (usually involving moving classes to school basements or other shelters), and dispersal drills (mainly tested on the east coast and soon deemed impractical). Teachers were also given a variety of materials for use in class, and Bert the Turtle/the Duck and Cover story was one of the most popular. Issued by the FCDA in 1951, it received a wide distribution in print (as a comic book), as both film and filmstrip, and song. The film is one of the first attempts on screen to help children understand what they should do in the event of an atomic bomb attack. As Bert explains, ‘It explodes with a flash brighter than any you have ever seen. Things will be knocked down all over town… YOU must be ready to protect yourself.’ So, as soon as a teacher shouted ‘duck,’ kids were taught to dive under their desks and assume the ‘atomic head clutch position.’ As JoAnne Wood explains, ‘Duck and Cover typified the way both educators and FCDA officials handled civil defense for children. Instruction and drill were typically purged of all frightening elements and were implemented with a perverse cheeriness. The net effect was a bizarre disjuncture between the known consequences of atomic war and the playful precautions of people living under its threat.’ Brown argues that this illegitimisation of people’s fears fostered a ‘dangerous and widespread psychology of repression,’ and others have gone on to argue that the psychological fall-out from this repression was one of the causes of the unrest and protest movements of the 1960s (see Robert Jay Lifton, The Broken Connection: on death and the continuity of life, Washington D.C.: American Psychiatric Press, 1979. BL shelfmark YC.1996.a.4169).

Another major strand of the school civil defence activities was the introduction of identification programmes for children. This is straying off my ‘Bert the Turtle’ story, but I can’t resist including a quote from the Journal of the National Education Association on the various options for identifying lost – and dead (although not overtly stated as such) children in the event of an attack. Just look at the options! ‘Tattooing is considered occasionally, but generally rejected because of its associations and impermanence in the case of severe burns... Marking of clothing is more seriously regarded [but] clothing can be destroyed... and is frequently interchanged. Fingerprinting is... regarded by some as an infringement of privacy. Cards are easily worn out, stolen or destroyed.’ For anyone interested, the preferred system opted for was the dog tag, long used by soldiers, but now ‘domesticated’ as JoAnne Brown describes it, for home use, and taking on an almost talismanic quality for protection of the nation’s children. Of course, the likelihood that dog tags would help identify anyone caught up in an atomic bomb blast is as believable as thinking you would be ok if you hid under your desk.

There are numerous reasons why teachers were, on the whole, complicit in the ritual of civil defence activities but I’ve no space to comment on them in a blog that’s already way too long. The two articles cited below provide much more information – and also explain why this peculiar role assigned to teachers and the school system didn’t last for very long. By the time of the launch of Sputnik in 1957, it was clear that America had fallen behind in the technology race. As former Senator William Benton put it, ‘Russian classrooms and libraries, her laboratories and teaching methods may threaten us more than her hydrogen bombs.’ Critics of the early 1950s focus on moral and spiritual education wanted a bigger emphasis on technical education which, to quote Michael Carey ‘would enable them to build weapons – more, bigger, better – and create the absolute security that moral and spiritual education could never attain.’  

But to return to Bert the Turtle: as one California cabbie recalls from his schooldays, ‘Only the young, the naïve and the schoolteachers were fooled by the drill.’ An educational filmstrip perhaps provides the most appropriate advice: 'The Atomic Energy Commission says the best defense against an atom bomb is to BE SOMEWHERE ELSE when it bursts.'

Further reading:

Michael J. Carey, The Schools and Civil Defense: the Fifties revisited. Teachers College Record, Vol.84 (1), Fall 1982, pp.115-127 (NB. The whole issue is on Education for Peace and Disarmament: toward a living world). BL shelfmark Ac.2688.q/4

JoAnne Brown, “A is for Atom, B is for Bomb”: Civil Defense in American Public Education, 1948-1963. Journal of American History, Vol.75 (1), June 1988, pp.68-90. Available through JSTOR in the Library’s reading rooms.

Paul Boyer, By the Bomb’s Early Light: American thought and culture at the dawn of the atomic age, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994 BL shelfmark YA.1997.b.2861 and Fallout: a historian reflects on America’s Half-Century Encounter with Nuclear Weapons, Columbus: Ohio State University press, 1998. BL shelfmark: 98/17544




Bert, the Turtle: ‘The Duck and Cover Song’ Leon Carr, Leo Corday & Leo Langlois. 1953 © Sheldon Music Inc


Bert, the Turtle: ‘The Duck and Cover Song’ Leon Carr, Leo Corday & Leo Langlois. 1953 © Sheldon Music Inc

02 May 2013

Commodore Perry goes to Japan

Perry men

 Public Domain Mark OR 16453

 A few weeks ago I was reading a piece in the Guardian about a new acquisition made by our colleagues at the British Museum. They had succeeded in raising the funding (£400,000) to acquire a beautiful 50 foot scroll (only half the length of the On the Road scroll of course!) which documents the arrival of the U.S. fleet in Japan in 1854, under the command of Commodore Matthew Perry (1794-1858). This was a key moment in both Japanese and U.S. history; the signing of the Treaty of Kanagawa took place on 31 March 1854, giving U.S. vessels access to Japanese ports both for refuge and to take on provisions. In addition, the Treaty allowed for a consul to be stationed in Shimoda. Although it wasn’t actually a trade agreement, the opening of a consulate inevitably facilitated trade, and the agreement signalled the beginning of Japan’s economic and political rise, as well as the U.S.’s growing interest in gaining both commercial and strategic advantage in the region.

Perry had entered the U.S. Navy as a midshipman in 1809 and was to enjoy a long and successful career. In 1852 he took command of the East Asia Squad, expressly on the orders of President Millard Fillmore, and was tasked with establishing official relations with Japan, a country which had been closed to most foreign contact for several centuries. Perry first arrived in Edo (Tokyo) Bay in 1853, with 4 warships and a letter for the Emperor from President Fillmore requesting that U.S. ships be allowed access to Japanese harbours. The letter was reluctantly accepted, which was fortunate since Perry’s back-up plan had been to proceed to the capital by force. He and his men then left Japan, but he was to return with his ‘black ships,’ as the Japanese described them, in February 1854 to receive the answer to the letter. The Museum's scroll is the most comprehensive depiction of Perry’s visit from the Japanese point of view. It was made 4 years later but is based on drawings done at the time of the visit. The scroll has just gone on display at the British Museum, and since it is too long to display in full, they will be opening out a new section each month until October. For now, I’ve had to make do with the tantalising glimpse revealed in the article, but I’m looking forward to going to see the real thing.  

 Perry procession

OR 16453

I was discussing the acquisition with our Japanese collections curator and was delighted to hear from him that we in fact also have a scroll relating to the U.S. fleet’s arrival – but ours references that first visit of Perry, when he delivered President Fillmore’s letter in July 1853. So Matt and I of course wanted to take a look straight away. The scroll is very much smaller than the BM’s (10 feet) and much less accomplished (but then it was also much cheaper!) but nevertheless, it’s still very interesting to see the Japanese representations of the arrival of Commodore Perry and his men. Perry is not in fact mentioned by name in the scroll, but it depicts the men in their uniforms, their formal parade with band (see images above), together with details of the men’s hats and instruments, and so on. The final section is a panorama of the U.S. ships at anchor in Uraga Bay. 

 Perry ships

OR 16453

We of course also have the American account of the visits – a hefty 3 volume set Narrative of the Expedition of an American Squadron to the China Seas and Japan, performed in the years 1852, 1853, and 1854, under the command of Commodore M.C. Perry, United States Navy….’ compiled by Francis L. Hawks, Washington: A.O.P. Nicholson, Printer, 1856 (shelfmark: 10057.f.22). Volume 1 has numerous illustrations (and maps), and below you can see the depiction of the presentation of the President’s letter. Interestingly, although the majority of the illustrations are by American artists, the volume also incorporates a number of vividly coloured facsimiles of traditional Japanese drawings. A good deal of volume 2 consists of maps, while Volume 3 is entirely concerned with ‘observations on the zodiacal light.’


Public Domain Mark Shelfmark 10057.f.22

For those wanting to know more about Perry and the ‘opening of Japan,’ you will find numerous accounts in the collections (he certainly isn’t someone who would qualify for our ‘Untold Lives blog). And Perry may well make a re-appearance on the Americas blog since an earlier period of his career connects to Phil's War of 1812 digitisation project.


08 November 2012

Tecumseh's warriors: First Nations and the War of 1812

 Subscriptions for Brock Monument (title sheet)

Public Domain Mark
This work (Correspondence, addresses, &c. connected with the subscriptions of various Indian tribes in Upper Canada, in aid of the funds for the re-construction of Brock's monument on Queenston Heights, by publisher: R. Stanton), identified by British Library, is free of known copyright restrictions.

With work still continuing on our War of 1812 digitisation project, Team Americas’ ex-intern Brendan Cull delves back into some of the items he discovered during his time here:


While at the Library I had the opportunity to sift through a variety of resources related to the War of 1812. As I dove feet first into historical documents and current research, it became clear to me that the reverberations of the battles fought were far-reaching both geographically and historically. Recently, many communities and groups in North America have been organizing re-enactments and celebrations to commemorate and explore the period. For example, the Royal Canadian Mint has honoured national heroes such as Sir Isaac Brock, Tecumseh, and Laura Secord with special issue coins

The War of 1812 affected many cultural groups and highlights the complex relationships between European settlers and First Nations. One item which caught my attention in particular contains a collection of official communications between Canadian government officials and First Nations leaders. “Correspondence, Addresses Etc. connected with the subscriptions of various Indian tribes in Upper Canada, in aid of the funds for the re-construction of Brock’s Monument, on Queenston Heights” [BL Shelfmark: C.42.b.1] contains a series of letters which connect various First Nations groups to the aforementioned British war hero, Sir Isaac Brock (who was killed in the Battle of Queenston Heights alongside his British and First Nations comrades). It begins with an appeal for fundraising, but fast becomes a fascinating record of the thoughts and feelings of various groups, including the Chippewas, Hurons, Wyandotts, Munsees, Oneidas, Mississagas and Mohawks, regarding their involvement in the war effort. These formal statements express outrage towards the defacement of Brock’s final resting place and their commitment to honour Brock’s memory, and by proxy that of their relatives who fought alongside him. By making financial contributions towards the re-erection of Brock’s Monument, the First Nations strove to commemorate their own involvement in many of the same battles in which Brock and, famously, Tecumseh had fought.

These letters are made even more telling when one considers that the American Army would not accept First Nations men amongst its ranks, whereas the British showed some encouragement to them to join in the conflict. An article entitled “Canadian Indians” in the March 9, 1813 edition of the Montreal Gazette [BL Shelfmark: MC270] reports that President James Madison mocked the British for fighting alongside the “red people”. The author makes it clear that while Madison had a negative view of First Nations people, not all Americans subscribed to this judgement; in fact, he draws on personal experience to counter Madison’s stand. These documents give us a sense of not only the politics of the conflict but also the role of the First Nations groups who had an important stake in its outcome.


06 November 2012

Down to the wire: the U.S. election

It appears that the 2012 U.S. election is going down to the wire.  There are obviously many reasons why the race is so close, but political commentators also always argue that a second term election is there to be lost by the incumbent.

 George Bush came a cropper in the 1992 election when his public approval ratings nose-dived due to (amongst other things) his apparent confusion over the pressing economic issues of the day. In 1980, the 39th President, Jimmy Carter, ran for a second term in what is often cited as the most disastrous campaign in US Presidential history. Carter had to fend off attacks from an effective campaign on the right by Ronald Reagan, the Republican nominee, whilst also defending his position against Edward (Ted) Kennedy, the Senator for Massachusetts, on the left of his own Democratic Party. Kennedy had refused to drop out of the Democratic Primary after the first vote, leading to a dirty and prolonged mud slinging match before Carter secured the nomination. Somewhat ironically Carter found himself running against his own economic record, with high inflation causing stagnation in economic growth and unemployment remaining stubbornly high.            

Many factors will play a part in influencing the outcome of this election - money and ‘Obamacare’ to name just two. Enormous campaign contributions have been amassed by both the Obama and Romney campaigns, and this has been made possible the Supreme Court decision which states that Federal Government cannot curtail independent expenditure for political purposes by groups, corporations and committees. The primary purpose of these political action committees or Super PACs, is to influence elections via corporations, unions or wealthy individuals. There is no limit on the amount of money they can raise as long as it is spent independently of the candidate’s campaign.

Obamacare, or the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has been a particularly contentious and divisive piece of legislation. The Act became law in March 2010 and the Republicans have already raised no fewer than 33 Bills in an attempt to repeal it. Why would the Republicans continue to raise bills which seem doomed to failure? It could be argued that this strategy is less about having Obamacare repealed in the first instance (although that clearly is a goal), but more a case of using these continuous legislative attacks on the Act in order to keep the issue at the top of the political agenda (and thereby subvert the Democrats own campaign agenda).

I was planning to finish off this post with a few light-hearted remarks on much smaller factors which potentially could influence the vote  (- such as the latest incarnation of the Halo series computer game Halo: 4 which is due for release today). But following the devastation that Hurricane Sandy has inflicted on the eastern seaboard, it is clear that many Americans are now faced with huge issues which may well have an impact on a knife-edge election where every vote really does count.

Matt is still in Philadelphia, and our Eccles Centre Professor Davies is now in Boston for the election, so they will have front row seats. But I and the rest of Team Americas will be glued to our TVs tonight to see how things unfold. There will no doubt be a few sleepy curators in the office tomorrow.

And you might like to know that we have a number of databases relating to U.S. Official Publications.


25 April 2012

Malaria in Ontario: a World Malaria Day post

Rideau Canal (route)
Route of the Rideau Canal, insert from the map, Map of the District of Montreal, Lower Canada [Shelfmark: Maps 70715.(2.)]

Today is World Malaria Day so it seemed appropriate to do a short post related to one of the world's most prevalent diseases. Regarding the collections, there are a number of items which could drive interesting narratives here but this piece focuses on malaria in Canada. This might seem odd but malaria is not solely a tropical disease, coming in two main strains one of which is tolerant of temperate climates. Indeed the P. vivax strain of malaria was long endemic in parts of England, as this blog post from the Wellcome Library points out.

Scientific evidence illustrates that malaria in all its forms was introduced to the Americas subsequent to Columbian contact. Malaria was established in many parts of North America before the nineteenth century and Canada was no exception, but the construction sites of the Rideau Canal provided a particularly strong foothold. The construction of the canal led to the creation of semi-drained, marshy areas into which dense populations of workers were added, an ideal environment for mosquitoes and malaria transmission.

Rideau Canal (Locks)
Rideau Canal significant works, plate from, Papers on Subjects Connected with the Duties of the Corps of Royal Engineers [Shelfmark: P.P.4050.i]

As a result parts of the canal's construction were dogged by significant malarial sickness, as described by the engineer John MacTaggart in 1829, “In the summer of 1828 the sickness in Upper Canada raged like a plague; all along the banks of the lakes, nothing but languid fevers; and at the Rideau Canal few could work with fever and ague; at Jones Falls and Kingston Mills, no one was able to carry a draught of water to a friend; doctors and all were laid down together.” [from Three Years in Canada, Vol. II, p. 21, Shelfmark: 792.f.8]. While today malaria is almost unheard of in this part of North America, these nineteenth century outbreaks resulted in many deaths in the project's labour camps.

Away from Canada, malaria is still a source of misery for millions around the world. The Library contains a significant amount of published material relating to malaria, largely as a result of the significant twentieth century developments in understanding how the disease was transmitted and could be treated. There is also a large amount of material online, especially because the drive to reduce the incidence of malaria is one of the Millennium Development Goals.


15 April 2012

The Sinking of the RMS Titanic

Titanic US inquiry

Today marks the centenary of the sinking of the White Star Liner RMS Titanic. The shock waves of the incident radiated through the world in a number of ways. It marked the beginning of the end for the Edwardian period’s “age of innocence”. Since that fateful night in the north Atlantic Ocean where the Titanic collided with an iceberg during its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York, it has embedded itself deeply into our collective imagination. Even after a century, and with the passing of the last survivors and the fading of their stories, the Titanic continues to hold a mass appeal.

From the perspective of Official Publications, the Titanic disaster provides us with two inquiries into the sinking - the U.S. Senate Inquiry: "Titanic" disaster hearings before a Subcommittee of the Committee on Commerce, United States Senate, Sixty-second congress, second session, pursuant to S. Res. 283 directing the Committee on Commerce to investigate the causes leading to the wreck of the White Star liner "Titanic".[shelfmark AS.10/4]

This was convened in New York on the 19th April, just a day after the SS Carpathia had docked with the survivors, in order to get their testimony at the earliest opportunity.  Following this the British Wreak Commissars Inquiry got underway on the 1st May 1912.  The subsequent report Shipping casualties, (loss of the steamship "Titanic"). Report of a formal investigation into the circumstances attending the foundering on 15th April, 1912. [shelfmark B.S.Ref.1 Cd. 6352] was published in July.  Unusually there is, in pencil, an annotated cross reference the the U.S. inquiry added to the entry for the British inquiry in our Reading Room copy of the General Index to the Bills, Reports and Papers of the House of Commons. While both inquiries are available in the library’s collections in various formats there are also digital editions freely accessible online via the Titanic Inquiry website.

The U.S. and U.K. inquiries were criticized at the time for their short comings. Nevertheless, broadly speaking the recommendations for the two reports resulted in the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (shelfmark A.S.10/4) which continues to govern maritime safety today. In addition, the inquiries offer us verbatim transcripts of the examination of the survivors from the Titanic’s passengers and crew, providing an insight into the events of that night from the perspective of those who went through the ordeal.      

The Library’s collections are peppered with material relating to the Titanic – some of the most famous contemporary depictions and portraits from publications of the day can be viewed in Images Online . Use the search term “Titanic”.    

Some of the more unusual items to be found in the catalogue include sermons and religious tracts relating to the disaster. Of particular interest is a copy of Some reflexions, seamanlike and otherwise, on the loss of the Titanic [shelmark Ashley 484] by the writer Joseph Conrad, who was also an experienced seaman. It is one of only twenty-five copies printed. Conrad also commented on the inquiry in Some Aspects of the Admirable Inquiry into the Loss of the Titanic [shelfmark Ashley 485], another limited edition of twenty-five copies .

Loss of the Titanic (Conrad)

We also have a strong collection of musical scores which where composed following the sinking to commemorate the events of that tragic night a century ago.



26 January 2012

Picturing the Great Alone: photography and the Antarctic

Robert Falcon Scott (by Herbert Ponting)
Robert Falcon Scott on the 'Terra Nova' expedition, by Herbert Ponting. Image from Wikipedia.

Last year was a busy one for Team Americas and one of the many things we managed to do was take on some responsibilities for materials relating to Antarctica, thus adding a whole extra continent to our domain. This being the case, when an opportunity to view 'The Heart of the Great Alone' at The Queen's Gallery came up a couple of us jumped at the chance.

'The Heart of the Great Alone' covers various early twentieth century expeditions to the Antarctic, including that of the 'Terra Nova' during which Scott and his team perished. The main exhibition focus is the photography of Frank Hurley, photographer for Shackleton's 'Endurance' expedition, and Herbert Ponting, who produced the official photographs for the 'Terra Nova' expedition. I could write a lot here about these photographers and the expedition but the best thing to do would be to recommend a visit the exhibition itself or the e-gallery.

 Icebergs (by Herbert Ponting)
'Midnight in the Antarctic Summer', by Herbert Ponting. Image from Wikipedia.

However, as always with these trips, I had a mind to mull over the Library's materials relating to the Antarctic when I got back. The Library's collections from this area are not the largest in the world, with institutions such as the Scott Polar Research Institute and the Royal Geographical Society (to name a few) holding a wealth of material, but there is a noteworthy body of material which is well supported by the wider collection of Official Publications and Newspapers (especially in the case of an expedition such as the 'Terra Nova').

That said, there are some stand out items and a notable collection of miscellaneous materials held here. Captain Scott's diary is one of the Library's star collection items and the journal 'The South Polar Times' (shelfmark: Tab.444.d.6.) was the first publication printed on the Antarctic continent. Publications by Frank Hurley and Herbert Ponting also feature, including Ponting's 'The Great White South' (1921, shelfmark: 010460.g.1). These items contribute to a wealth of published material relating to the Antarctic and explorers such as Scott and Roald Amundsen.

As well as holding materials relating to the initial exploration of Antarctica, the Library has a significant collection regarding the continent in the later twentieth century; where scientific progress and international co-operation become the order of the day. Materials arising from events such as the Antarctic Treaty or organisations such as the British Antarctic Survey, as well as many academic texts and articles regarding the continent, are insightful on their own but also suggest an evolving relationship between global society and the frozen continent.


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