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Freeze Frame Scott Polar Research Institute

The Project

Freeze Frame: Historic Polar Images, 1845-1982

A collection of historic images of life and work in the polar regions

The Freeze Frame website presents an online catalogue of over 20,000 images from the historic negative collections at the Scott Polar Research Institute.  The negatives cover expeditions into the Arctic and Antarctic during the period 1845-1982 and representing some of the most important visual resources for research into British and international polar exploration these images are presented with ancillary material from the collections of the Institute, and critical essays contextualising much of the material.


There are iconic and familiar images from the ‘Heroic Age’ of Antarctic expeditions of Robert F. Scott and Ernest Shackleton, as well as other generations of explorers who braved the polar regions before and after them. With remote access to these digital images, we hope to encourage new audiences to explore the polar world for themselves.

The whole resource illustrates the development of polar technologies, including photography, over this period. For the first time researchers will be able to search and browse the selected content, much of which was uncatalogued or inaccessible because of the inherent fragility of the negatives from which the images are taken.


Conserve: The photographic negatives in the Scott Polar Research Institute are a unique but also an extremely fragile resource. Their very nature makes research access to them difficult, for example, many of the earlier images are daguerreotypes or on glass plates. To preserve these images for the future and to provide access to them, through Freeze Frame we have made some 20,000 avilable via this web site. Covering the period from 1845-1982, they represent some of the most important visual resources for research into British and international polar exploration.


Digitise: The International Polar Year 2007-08 (IPY) is the first of its kind for fifty years. This IPY, coupled with growing interest in climate change, has provided a unique impetus for the Scott Polar Research Institute to make selected resources available online to reach a wider learning community than ever before.


We are now in a period marking the centenaries of the so called ‘Heroic Age’ of Antarctic exploration. Sent to discover the South Pole and carry out scientific exploration, these expeditions also provided some of the most memorable photographic records of polar exploration. These images are made accessible through Freeze Frame to a global audience.


Explore: The Freeze Frame project has developed an online database of freely available visual and textual resources to support learning, teaching and research into topics relating to the history of Arctic and Antarctic history, exploration, and science. Via the image catalogue and e-learning resources the project is able to provide access to hidden collections for all educational levels. We have chosen a thematic rather than a curriculum-based approach for students and those with an interest in the polar regions. This will enable them to discover through the eyes of past explorers and scientists who laid the foundations for the scientific work carried out by the Institute today.


Freeze Frame is the output of the Discovering the Poles project which was run within the Scott Polar Research Institute at the University of Cambridge.


Funding for this project comes from the JISC Digitisation Programme. An overview of the other projects in this programme can be found on the JISC website.


Project Planning:


The aim of the Freeze Frame project has been to conserve and digitise a selection of images from our archive of photographic negatives dating from 1845 onwards. This archive includes daguerreotypes, magic lantern slides, glass plate negatives and more modern cellulose nitrate and acetate formats.


Many of these images are previously unpublished, rediscovered by the project team within private albums and personal collections. While the more famous photographs of Herbert Ponting and Frank Hurley are represented, here a large number of the images have never been before the public eye.


The Freeze Frame: historic polar images project is the largest and most ambitious of its kind, featuring unique polar photographic collections of national significance, with an enduring appeal. There are iconic and familiar images from the ‘heroic age’ of Antarctic exploration by Captain Scott and Sir Ernest Shackleton, as well as other images from the explorers who braved the polar regions both before and after them.


We hope through this resource to encourage new audiences to explore the polar world for themselves.


1 January: Project planning and research strategy
1 April: Collections research
1 May: Initial image selection, notification on SPRI web site
June: Project team deliver strategic plans to the steering group
July: Recruitment of project team and initial training
August: Metadata completed for initial test images
September: Aggregation of initial resources to DSpace@Cambridge

March: Education Resources Officer appointed
April: Web developmment
November: Development web site available

January: Development web site usability testing
February: Image target reached
4 March: Project launch

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