Steps away from Durham Cathedral’s carved stone columns and saintly shrines, paths lined with colorful begonias circle a grassy area known as Palace Green. Durham Castle stands to the north, while the law, theology, classics, history, music and special collections departments of Durham University make their homes in buildings to the east and west.
We burst into one of those buildings in search of Emma Bridgewater’s elusive limited-edition Lindisfarne Gospels mug. We emerged without the mug, but with two knitting patterns designed to complement a series of exhibitions now on view at Palace Green Library.
The library dates to 1669, when Bishop John Cosin founded the first public lending library in the northeast of England that was home to his collection of medieval manuscripts and early printed books. A year after the University of Durham was established in 1832, the library became known as Durham University Library, expanding its collection so much so that it moved to the 15th-century Exchequer Building, a former law court, on Palace Green. Today, the library focuses solely on the university’s archival and special collections.
This winter, the library is hosting four exhibitions on the discovery and exploration of Antarctica.
Antarctica: Explorers, Heroes, Scientists uncovers how people from the northeast of England have contributed to our understanding of Antarctica, from Captain Cook to contemporary Durham University scientists. With Scott to the Pole features historic photographs of Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s ill-fated expedition to the South Pole in 1910, where he and his colleagues died on the return journey. Antarctic Witness charts the events of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914-16, as documented in 120 glass plates created by Frank Hurley, the expedition’s official photographer. Antarctic Science Today uncovers information about climate and sea level change that Durham University researchers are currently gathering in Antarctica.
Before Christmas, knitters were invited to make two hats that were inspired by Antarctic explorers, with all proceeds donated to Head Start, an initiative of Walking with the Wounded, a charity supporting mentally injured servicemen and women that organized a 2013 trek across the Antarctic. Both hats are made from very simple patterns.
As part of her “Explorer” collection of knitted hats, Angelea McGarrah designed her “Shackleton” hat in honor of Sir Ernest Shackleton, a polar explorer who led three expeditions to the Antarctic.
The “Tom Crean Tea Cozy” hat honors Tom Crean, Shackleton’s second officer on the Endurance expedition to Antarctica in 1914. The Irishman first traveled to the Antarctic with Shackleton in 1901. During an expedition with Robert Scott to the South Pole in 1911, he walked 35 miles alone across the ice to rescue a fellow explorer, an act which won him the Albert Medal for Lifesaving. When the dog-handler Shackleton hired for the Endurance expedition didn’t show up, Crean took charge of the 69 dogs that were chosen to work with the crew. He also accompanied Shackleton on the 800-mile journey to South Georgia to find help after the Endurance sank after encountering hundreds of miles of pack ice.
Inspired by the hat that Crean is wearing in this photo, Jane Suzanne Carroll made a pattern for a hat that doubles as a tea cozy. Carroll, a lecturer on children’s literature at the University of Roehampton, recommends reading Shackleton’s Journey by William Grill, a picture book about the Endurance expedition which won the 2015 Kate Greenaway medal for illustration. To see more of her work, click here.
For more on Shackleton, see Chasing Shackleton: Re-creating the World’s Greatest Journey of Survival, by Tim Jarvis; Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage, by Alfred Lansing; and Shackleton’s Voyage of Endurance, NOVA’s 1999 expedition following in Shackleton’s footsteps to Elephant and South Georgia Islands.
All three exhibitions are on view at Durham University’s Palace Green Library through February 7.