Transcript of polar collections video

Geography and exploration

Transcript of Foreign Collections Curator John Bowles's filmed talk about the Captain Scott Expedition collection at the National Library of Scotland.

My name is John Bowles. I work in the Foreign Collections unit of the National Library and one of my responsibilities is for our mountaineering and polar collections, of which we have considerable numbers. And in this feature I'm going to talk about one or two items in our polar collections, specifically about Antarctica.

The National Library has material on all significant Antarctic expeditions throughout history, and, especially, our collections are particularly large on the most famous and tragic expedition of all - that of Captain Scott, whose centenary is under way at the moment.

Captain Scott's expedition was the second one to reach the South Pole. It was pipped to the Pole by Amundsen's Norwegian expedition. But sadly on the return journey back to his ship, Scott and his four companions perished in the snow, and his death - and the news of it when it came back to Britain - caused an extraordinary upsurge of grief and interest and inspired a whole range of materials, of which we have collected some.

This group here shows some of the different categories of materials that were produced as a result of the Scott tragedy.

There are a number of memorial service programmes. We also have various photographic postcards - for example one here of Bowers, one of Wilson, one of Scott himself. We have programmes for photographic exhibitions and films shows, many of them delivered by Herbert Ponting, who was the photographer on the expedition.

We have 'Captain Scott's Message to England', which is the brochure which was produced containing Scott's final diary entries, which were found on his body after his death.

Ironically, despite the tragic failure of this expedition, its fame entirely eclipsed that of the Norwegian, Amundsen, who actually succeeded in being the first person to reach the Pole.

Some of the material will be held by a few other libraries, but I think it's the range of our collections and the depth of them that makes our collections especially important.

We've got the second largest collection on polar discovery and exploration in Britain after the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge, which is the number one collection.

I suppose the other part of it is - both mountain and polar world - just the sheer beauty and wonder of nature. I mean, it sounds a bit of cliché, but the mountain and polar worlds can produce astonishing spectacles that really can, you know, take you out of yourself and, well, inspire you, I suppose.


Library favourites

Library video guides

Man using laptop seated at table

Watch our video guides to find out how to access National Library of Scotland resources from home, school or in person.

NLS learning for you

If there's a topic you'd like more information about or if you have any suggestions for learning, email us.

Speak me