September 2009


A large collection of rare personal papers relating to Dr. Edward Wilson came up for auction at Bonham's in September. Dr. David Wilson, his great nephew, led efforts to salvage as much as possible for the national archives. The Antarctic Heritage Trust contributed significantly to the £18,000 raised by 33 donors. Amongst the items saved were letters from prominent polar figures, including Captain Scott and Lady Scott, to Wilson's parents, relating to Wilson's role on both of Scott's Antarctic expeditions. These went to the archives at the SPRI. Also acquired was a rare paper on the meteorology of the 'Discovery' expedition in Wilson's own hand, which went to the collections of the Dundee Heritage Trust.

The largest part of the acquisition went to the Wilson Family Archive at the Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum and included two wonderful scrap books kept by Wilson's sister. Also included were a draft of a private biography of Wilson by his father; an important transcript of Wilson's penultimate letter to his wife (the original of which is destroyed) and a poignant telegram sent by her to Wilson's parents announcing that the latest news from the expedition is that he is fit and well. In fact he had been dead for a week. The donation of the material generated a great deal of interest in the local and national media, including a spot on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.