Sir John Richardson and Dr John Rae: Scottish Doctors and Explorers in Search of Franklin

14 June 2018

A talk by Adam Doskey, Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Royal Hotel, Stromness Wednesday 11th July 2018, 7.30pm

We were pleased to welcome Adam Doskey to the Royal Hotel in Stromness on 11th July for a talk jointly hosted by the John Rae Society and Stromness Museum.

Adam Doskey is Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where one of the collections he curates is the library of Sir John Richardson. Adam researches the reading habits of Arctic explorers and works to reconstruct their libraries from documentary evidence.

Adam was in the UK to speak at the Library and Information History Group’s conference, The Allies of Books: Keepers, Curators & Collectors in Victorian Britain at the St Bride Foundation in London. Adam’s paper was titled ‘Sir John Richardson: Arctic Explorer and Builder of Libraries’, and he adapted his talk for Orkney to include references to John Rae, William Balfour Baikie, and similarities between Richardson and Rae.

Though born 25 years apart, these two explorers of the Arctic shared much in common, including medical training in Edinburgh. In 1848, Richardson and Rae led the first search for the lost Franklin Expedition, whose fate Rae discovered on a subsequent expedition. Adam’s talk focused on Richardson, but examined the lives of the two explorers in relation to one another, through the books and documents they left behind and the Arctic explorers who followed in their wake, particularly those who were inspired by John Rae.

Talk July2018

The talk was very well attended by around seventy people who enjoyed the insights gained by looking at 19th-century Arctic exploration through the eyes of an older, establishment figure who sailed with both Sir John Franklin and John Rae. Several questions were asked afterwards before the raffle which, with donations, raised money for the John Rae Society and Stromness Museum.

While he was in Orkney, Adam was also able to visit the Hall of Clestrain, Orkney Library and Archive, and Stromness Museum, where he was shown Arctic-related material from the collection.

We are very grateful to Adam for his generosity in coming to Orkney and speaking to us, and we hope to maintain links with Adam and the University of Illinois and to be able to share digitised Arctic material from the library.

Rachel Boak

This is a joint event between the John Rae Society and Stromness Museum.