Expedition files (E)

Scope and Content

The main bulk of the files are survey records. These document stations occupied, data, bearings, field sketches, and often include catalogues of specimens, localities, and photographs. These were written on 8x10” paper.

The series also includes field notebooks (approx. 500) kept by each member of the party. They document occupied stations, observed points (triangular), specimens collected, and those locations/specimens which were photographed. Brian Harland explained in a number of expedition bulletins, that these field notes would form the basis of the survey records.

Log books record the times and dates of stopping and starting, compass bearings, include sketch maps, gradients of snow surfaces, the number of photographs or specimens taken, and include weather records.

Photograph albums (often) include indexes/contents lists. They depict personnel, accommodation, food, specimens, panoramas, and wildlife.

The series also includes loose letters, maps, and ephemera.

Administrative / Biographical History

The files in this series form the main part of the Svalbard archive. They document the scientific work undertaken by members of each expedition group, from 1938 until 1992.

The principles for field-work notetaking were devised in 1949. These included a distinct system for station numbers (ringed) in notebook and in (round parenthesis) in typescript. Specimen numbers were always underlined and photograph numbers identified in a rectangle in a notebook and [square brackets] in typescript.

According to Brian "Different members were made responsible for the writing of diaries and reports, and for the curating of records and specimens in different departments of work, so that (current) results were readily available during the expedition". (Ref: E16, 1949 Expedition notes)

Each member each year was allocated a letter of the alphabet. This was used both as identification of personal baggage and as a prefix for station, specimen, and photo numbers. Each year the starting number of these was given to the member. This system was maintained throughout the expeditions.


This series was arranged by Brian Harland in chronological order. This system has therefore been maintained.

Other Finding Aids

Detailed spreadsheets of the expedition files are available.

Lists of those who took part in each expedition, each year, are available as are lists of the letters used to identify individuals notebooks/specimens/localities.