Skip to Main Content

University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Scandinavian Studies Guide: Arctic Studies

Environmental References

Representations of the Arctic

The Arctic is not a single, homogenous space, nor is it home to a single people or culture. Areas of the Arctic span across Scandinavia, Svalbard, Greenland, Canada, Alaska, and Siberia. While it has often been viewed as a destination for imperial exploration, it is also home to Inuit, Sami, and other native peoples. These resources are meant to help engage with a variety of these representations.

In searching for materials on representations of the Arctic, it is important to remember that many accounts were scientific in nature, or as mission work through the Christian church to the people of the Arctic region. Some depictions were also for the pure spectacle of otherness (specifically in depictions of the landscape and animals).

For more ethnographic self-representation, this guide contains links to local Arctic archives, listed under the Web Resources.

See also:

The Arctic Council
The Arctic Council is an intergovernmental forum to provide a means for promoting cooperation, coordination and interaction among the Arctic States, with the involvement of the Arctic Indigenous communities and other Arctic inhabitants on common Arctic issues, in particular issues of sustainable development and environmental protection in the Arctic.

Visions of the North
Russell Potter is Professor of English and Media Studies at Rhode Island College. His blog, while informal, contains a great wealth of interesting topics emergent of Arctic studies. He is also author of the book Arctic Spectacles (2007), which is held here in the library's Main Stacks (910.9113 P855a).

The Arctic in Fiction

The Arctic has been considered by some as the "last imaginary place," and has often been used as a kind of blank canvas against which to set character drama and fiction. This is an inherently othering perception of the region, but it nonetheless sets the stage for a wide range of fiction.

The Arctic in Film

The Arctic has often been represented in film and in commercials, from early expedition films and nature documentaries, to automobile and cola advertisements. Some of the most prominent depictions, however, are in feature films and as nature documentaries at IMAX theaters.

Environmental Issues

Search terms for the topic:

  • Global Warming
  • Climate Change
  • Greenhouse Effect
  • Climatic Change
  • Global Change
  • Deglaciation
  • Ecocriticism


Web Resources & Archives

RBML Collections

The majority of Arctic exploration-related works in the library are shelved under the call number 919.8 and many can be found in the Catalog using the subject heading "Arctic regions, Discovery and exploration." In addition to the general Arctic collections, four named collections of Arctic material are held by the Rare Book and Manuscript Library (RBML). The RBML also holds several rare Arctic newspaper titles.

The Palmer-Parry Collection

Charles Palmer (1792-1861) served as a midshipman on the Buchan expedition to the North Pole (1818), Parry's first expedition (1819-1820) and Parry's second expedition (1821-1823). Manuscript material relating to each of these expeditions is available in the archival collection with the shelf-mark Post-1650 MS 0435. Additionally, Palmer's copy of the manuscript of The North Georgia Gazette and Winter Chronicle (Post-1650 MS 0334) and its printed edition (Q. 052 NG 1822) are cataloged separately. The Palmer-Parry Collection also includes four Inuit drawings, a manuscript Inuit-English dictionary, and a sketchbook by junior British naval officer Andrew Motz Skene (1797-1849).

The Sir John Richardson Collection

Sir John Richardson (1787-1865) served as a naturalist and surgeon on Franklin's two overland expeditions (1819-1822, 1825-1827). Along with John Rae, Richardson led the first expedition in search of Sir John Franklin's lost expedition (1848-1849). These expeditions are represented in print and manuscript materials purchased by the University of Illinois from Richardson's heirs in 1963. The manuscript of Richardson's journal of Franklin's first overland expedition is cataloged under the shelf-mark Post-1650 MS 0052. It was edited by C. Stuart Houston and published as Arctic Ordeal: The Journal of John Richardson, Surgeon-Naturalist with Franklin, 1820-1822. Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1984. [Main Stacks and Undergraduate 919.8 B39j 1984 (circulating) & Rare Books 919.8 B39j 1984 (non-circulating)]. The manuscript account book detailing Richardson's preparations for the first Franklin search is cataloged under the shelf-mark Post-1650 MS 0051 and is unpublished. A list of the 173 items contained in this manuscript can be found in Richardson's biography: Johnson, Robert Eugene. Sir John Richardson: Arctic Explorer, Natural Historian, Naval Surgeon. London: Taylor and Francis, 1976. [Rare Books B.R5232j (non-circulating) & ACES B.R5232j (circulating)]. The printed works in the Sir John Richardson Collection can be found by doing an author search for "Richardson, John, Sir, 1787-1865" in the Classic Catalog.

The Schwatka Arctic Library

Frederick Schwatka (1849-1892) was an Arctic explorer born in Galena, Illinois, who led a search for written documents of the lost Franklin Expedition in 1878-1879. He later explored Alaska. In 1924, his widow sold to the University of Illinois the remains of his library, approximately 50 books. These books can be found by doing an author search for "Schwatka, Frederick, 1849-1892" or "Schwatka Arctic Library" in the Classic Catalog. Schwatka's collection focuses on the search for Franklin and other nineteenth-century Anglo-American Arctic expeditions.

The Mercanton Polar Library

Paul-Louis Mercanton (1876-1963) was a Swiss glaciologist. His collection of polar exploration meterials came to the University of Illinois in 1966. In addition to Anglo-American Polar narratives, the collection also contains works by European explorers such as Fridtjof Nansen, Jean Charcot, and Alfred Wegener. Many of the books are inscribed by their authors. These books can be found by doing an author search for "Mercanton, Paul-Louis, 1876-1963" or "Mercanton Polar Library" in the Classic Catalog.

Arctic Newspapers in Collection:

Arctic miscellanies: A Souvenir of the Late Polar Search by the Officers and Seamen of the Expedition. London: Colburn and Co., 1852. [Rare Books 919.8 Ar274]

Atuagagdliutit. Godthaab, Greenland, 1861-1910. [Rare Books]

The North Georgia Gazette and Winter Chronicle:

   The North Georgia Gazette and Winter Chronicle. Edited by Edward Sabine. 2nd ed. London: John Murray, 1822. [Rare Books Q. 052 NG 1822]

   [A copy of the Winter Chronicle, or, New Georgia Gazette]. [Melville Island, Nunavut, 1819-1820]. [Rare Books Post-1650 MS 0334]