20,000 photos from 150 years of polar exploration available online

Over 20,000 images capturing over 150 years of polar exploration have been made accessible online by the Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI3), thanks to a digitisation programme funded by JISC.

As part of the preservation programme, negatives, daguerreotypes and lantern slides, which form part of a rich but fragile archive held by the Scott Polar Research Institute at the University of Cambridge, will be made available to scientists, researchers, scholars and members of the public.

From today, anyone interested in the 19th century exploration of the Arctic and the Antarctic expeditions of Captain Scott, Sir Ernest Shackleton and their modern counterparts such as Sir Ranulph Fiennes can simply visit the Freeze Frame4 site. (Image to right shows Debenham and Taylor in the ice, 20 December 1910).

As well as being able to view a range of images, including Herbert Ponting’s glass plate negatives from the 1910-13 British Antarctic Expedition, that are so fragile they will never be on public display, visitors to the website will also be able to read extracts from diaries, expedition reports, letters and other personal papers of expedition members.

Polar Explorer Pen Hadow, who is currently leading the Catlin Arctic Survey which will determine the likely meltdown date of the ice cap, said: 'The Freeze Frame archive is invaluable in charting changes in the polar regions. Making the material available to all will help with further research into scientific studies around global warming and climate change.' (Image to the left shows Petty Officers Evans and Crean mending Sleeping Bags.)

Heather Lane, Librarian and Keeper of Collections at the Scott Polar Research Institute, said: 'The digitisation of these historic photographs allows the Scott Polar Research Institute’s resources to reach a wider learning community than ever before. Without this JISC-funded project we risked losing some of the most fragile of items forever and certainly wouldn’t be able to give so many people access to otherwise hidden collections that can further the study of polar environments.'

Alistair Dunning, Digitisation2 Programme Manager at JISC, added: 'This is one of over a dozen JISC-funded projects which aim to take valuable content that is not easily accessible by scholars or other interested parties and make it available to all. Freeze Frame will provide an unparalleled record of the living conditions and scientific findings of the explorers which can be used by learners today studying everything from photography and nutrition to global warming and glaciology.' (Image right shows a pair of Adelie penguins, January 1911 British Antarctic Expedition, 1910-13. Image below shows Captain Scott writing his diary in the winterquarters' hut.)Freeze Frame archive4

Press coverage of this project5 (scroll to Feb 2009)

JISC Digitisation Programme2

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