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What's on the mind of Team America?

Introduction

Find out more about our Americas Studies collections on the Americas blog, written by our curatorial team and guest posts from the Eccles Centre writers in residence. Our collections cover both North and South America, as well as the Caribbean. Read more

23 January 2015

Polar publishing (Locked in the Ice pt II)

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North georgia gazette (front)

Above: 'The North Georgia Gazette and Winter Chronicle', image from Archive.org. BL copy at: P.P.5280.

January may be almost over but, just in time, here is Team Americas' first blog post of 2015 (and so Happy New Year to you all). This lapse is despite writing, just before Christmas, about the positive health benefits of spending the winter creatively - especially when stuck in the ice. So, with that in mind, let's pick up where we left off, with more on the power of print in the Arctic and the Antarctic.

While the last post focussed on the 'Illustrated Arctic News' this was far from the only publication assembled near the poles. Some were even printed and formally published. One early item that almost made it into Lines in the Ice was, 'The North Georgia Gazette and Winter Chronicle' written, assembled and circulated on board Capt. W. E. Parry's 1819 voyage in search of the Northwest Passage. Parry was actively concerned about the mental well-being of his crew during the over wintering and convinced his officers and surgeon that a newspaper focussing on events and entertainments would be a good way to alleviate the boredom.

As well as warding off boredom and stimulating the mind these papers also provide a record of the voyage, one that is markedly different in content and tone from the official narratives published upon a ship's return to home. Humour, poetry, some irreverence and, later, whimsical illustration were all hallmarks of these publications, as shown by the 'Illustrated Arctic News' on display in the Lines in the Ice gallery.

South Polar Times (Midwinter Day Spet 1911)

Above: 'The South Polar Times', September 1911, copyright British Library. Manuscript and print copies held at the British Library.

Since Parry's time these newspapers and magazines have become a permanent feature of polar exploration and have subsequently featured in the search for both Poles. 'The South Polar Times' was arranged during both the expeditions of Capt. Scott. Meanwhile, in a feat of imperial splendour Shackleton took a letterpress to Antarctica in order to publish the continent's first book, 'Aurora Australis'.

The act of publishing on Antarctica is significant too. It fixes the British imperial presence on the continent, by noting the place of publication in the book, and as such makes a claim to some sort of limited mastery of the space. As with the planting of flags the publication of this book has overtones not just of claiming the space but of bringing British civilisation to and further developing its culture from the ice of Antarctica.

Aurora Australis (cover)

Above: 'Aurora Australis', cover, 1907, image from Wikipedia. BL copy at: C.175.h.11

Needless to say, this was not a new idea either. As writing and publishing had long been done in the Arctic so the idea that these acts somehow laid claim to space were also implicit within the act. Instead, Shackleton's method merely takes this process to a new level. This short history of writing on the ice reminds us how much is shared between Arctic and Antarctic exploration, as individuals, ships and methods of survival were transferred between the Arctic and Antarctic circles. The prsence of 'Aurora Australis' also provides an opportunity for a neat(ish) nod towards Australia Day, rapidly approaching on Sunday 25th. 

 

P.S. one last thing, Lines in the Ice is now extended until April 19th! So even more time for you to come and enjoy the show.

[PJH]

18 December 2014

Christmas, locked in the ice

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Illustrated Arctic News 1

Above: winter in the Arctic, from The Illustrated Arctic News [BL: 1875.c.19]. Courtesy of Images Online.

While researching Lines in the Ice one thing that has repeatedly struck me is the scale of the Arctic expeditions. Today we tend to embody these journeys in a single person, Amundsen, Franklin, Frobisher, Parry, Ross, and so on, but the reality is that even the smallest expeditions (such as those led by Dr John Rae) were made up of at least a handful of men. Meanwhile the largest expeditions, such as that led by Franklin in 1845, were more like mobile communities, over a hundred men all sharing adventure, danger and cramped surroundings.

At no time of year is this brought home more than Christmas. While many prepare for a break, time with family and all the comforts of the festive season, my mind is drawn back to the various documents the Library holds that recount how sailors in the Arctic tried to make the winter more bearable. The Illustrated Arctic News, on display in the exhibition, is a wonderful example of how crews attempted to pull through the darkness and boredom of the Arctic winter. The heavily illustrated newspaper, published on board HMS Resolute then reprinted upon the crew’s return to London, depicts various winter celebrations, a Guy Fawkes bonfire (seen above), a festive ball (complete with formal dress for men and women) and note on Christmas Day celebrations, but its production was also a tool for warding off boredom.

Sun at Midnight

Above: the winter may be long and dark but the sun would eventually return (and hang around), from Arctic Expeditions from British and Foreign Shores [BL: 10460.g.1]

It may be hard to imagine today, given the level of access to learning in the UK, but many sailors signed up for Arctic expeditions to get an education. While the winter may have been cramped, cold and dangerous it also meant little work could be done and so sailors would be taught how to read, write and do maths. This was not purely philanthropic on the part of the officers, it was mostly a way to keep the crew occupied and avoid depression, but, combined with good pay, the possibilities offered by a winter’s education were appealing to many sailors. Papers such as The Illustrated Arctic News, while organised by officers, were part of this system of education as they provided an output for the lessons learned by the crew. 

Of course, should the crew make it through the winter (low supplies, the ship being ‘pinched’ by the ice and many other risks were a constant danger) the sun would eventually return and a summer of back-breaking work would begin. As the temperature rose and the sun stayed in the sky for longer the crew could look forward to trying to navigate (and manually cut) the ships through the ice, man-hauling impossibly heavy sledges over land and all the other chores involved in Arctic exploration. Should they make it home, however, even if the Northwest Passage remained undiscovered, the crew would hopefully carry a unique record of their endeavour and a little more education with them.

Illustrated Arctic News 2

Above: the return of the sun means getting back into the field, from The Illustrated Arctic News [BL: 1875.c.19]. Courtesy of Images Online.

Lines in the Ice will be open until spring 2015 but, given Christmas is such a feature of the exhibition (even Santa makes an appearance), the festive season may be a good time to come and have a look around (just be sure to check the Library’s opening times). Meanwhile, Team Americas are gearing up for the festive break, so happy holidays everyone!

[PJH]

16 December 2014

Access World News/ NewsBank

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As mentioned in my previous blog, this time we’re going to shine a light on Access World News, an extraordinary database from NewsBank Inc. which currently provides access to more than 1800 American news sources and is accessible in all British Library Reading Rooms (you can find it listed here).

On the United States ‘homepage’ the sources are listed by state but can also be searched by region. Clicking the ‘Source Types’ tab reveals the following categories, as well as the number of sources for each of them: audio, blogs, journals, magazines, newspapers, newswires, transcripts, videos and web-only sources. A summary of each source provides the date range covered, the media type, publishing frequency, circulation, ownership and – where applicable – the URL or ISSN. In addition, the news magazines can also be accessed under ‘Short-Cuts/America’s News Magazines’ on the left-hand side of the home-page. Finally, clicking the ‘Source List’ tab reveals an alphabetical list of all news sources, along with their date range, location and source type.

The database’s many notable highlights include:

Full-text coverage of more than 1300 newspapers, including: Boston Herald (1991 – );  Daily News (NY) (1995 – ); The Dallas Morning News (1984 – ); The Denver Post (1989 – ); The Detroit News (1999 – ); Los Angeles Times (1985 – ); The Miami Herald (1982 – ); New York Post (1999 – ); Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (1990 – ); Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (1990 – ); and the San Francisco Chronicle (1985 – ).

Transcripts of features on nearly seventy news programmes, including: 60 Minutes (CBS; 2004 – ) ; CBS Evening News (2005 – ); The Charlie Rose Television Show (PBS; 2004 – ); CNN (2004 – ); Face the Nation (CBS; 2010 – ); Fox News Channel (2003 – ); Meet the Press (NBC; 2012 – ); MSNBC (2003 – ); NBC Nightly News (2014 – ); NPR (1990 – ); and PBS NewsHour (2006 – ).

Full-text coverage of more than twenty news magazines, including: The Atlantic (1994 – ); Foreign Affairs (1994 – ); The New Republic (1993 – ); The New Yorker (2012 – ); Newsweek (1991 – ); and The Saturday Evening Post (1994 – ). NB: These are all listed under ‘Short Cuts/America’s News Magazines.

Output from more than 270 web-only sources, including Accuracy in Media(1998 – ); The Centre for Investigative Reporting (the oldest non-profit investigative reporting organisation in the US) (2003 – ); The Center for Public Integrity (2007 – ); The Daily Beast (2008 – ); Newsmax.com (2002 – ); and Slate (1996 – ).

Access to 64 newswires, including: Associated Press News Service (1997 – );  AP State Wires (from all states, 2010/2011 – ); CNN Wire (2009 – ); and UPI NewsTrack, (2005 – ).

Audio of The Diane Rehm Show (2000 – ), a daily news, arts and discussion show airing on NPR since the 1970s; a transcript is available from 2010.

The newspapers and news magazines in this database are text-only – they do not include the original page-layout, photographs or advertisements.

[J.P.]