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Antarctic collection

21 November 2023

Christchurch's location as a major 'Gateway to the ice' means there's a longstanding interest in the continent of Antarctica and the southern ocean around it. From science and logistics to treaty matters and environmental concerns, the collection covers a wide range of subjects. Learn more about the Antarctic collection.


Christchurch's location as a major "Gateway to the ice" has meant that there is longstanding interest here in the continent of Antarctica and the southern ocean which surrounds it. Material about Antarctica is held in all parts of the Library but in September 1998 the University of Canterbury Library was given the opportunity to hold and look after a special collection from the International Antarctic Centre. This Antarctic Collection is managed as a distinct collection by the University Library on indefinite loan from Antarctica New Zealand and supports the work of Gateway Antarctica, the University's centre for Antarctic studies.


What is it?

The subject coverage of the collection is wide-ranging, but has particular emphases on:

  • New Zealand activities in Antarctica (records of scientific work, logistic support, environmental concerns, Antarctic Treaty matters)
  • Antarctica in general
  • Antarctic science

The collection includes around 5000 books and journals, and also a substantial number of maps and videos.

Where is it?
  • Books and Journals - shelved on level 1 of the EPS library. Some journals are not yet classified and are shelved by title.
  • Maps - housed in map cabinets on level 1 of the EPS library.
  • Microfiche and microfilms - held in level 1 of the EPS library. Many of the fiche contain the full-text of documents indexed by the Arctic & Antarctic Bibliography.
  • Videos - shelved on level 1 of the EPS library.
Access and catalogue

Material on the shelves may be freely browsed, and may be borrowed by University staff and students. The books and journals are available through the interlibrary loan system.

Maps and microfiche may not be borrowed.

The Library Catalogue allows you to search for everything owned by the Library, including the Antarctic Collection.

History of the collection

The Antarctic Division of the New Zealand Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) and its Library were established in 1959. The initial emphasis was on building up a comprehensive collection of historical publications covering New Zealand's Antarctic interests and the interests of other countries in the Ross Dependency. This later changed to establishing "a comprehensive scientific and technical collection of Antarctic literature".

When the DSIR was dis-established, the New Zealand Antarctic Institute Act 1996 created Antarctica New Zealand which took over the DSIR Library. The Library served the International Antarctic Centre including Antarctica New Zealand, the International Centre for Antarctic Information and Research (ICAIR), the Visitor Centre, members of the United States and Italian Antarctic programmes while in Christchurch, and Scott Base. It was also open to researchers and members of the public interested in Antarctica.

In 1998, Antarctica New Zealand approached the University of Canterbury Library which agreed to manage the collection on indefinite loan.


Antarctic Collection Rare Books

When the University took over the International Antarctic Centre Library in 1998, there were 37 volumes representing the narratives of the "Heroic age" of Antarctic exploration.

The highlight is the three volume 1907-1914 facsimile of the South Polar Times. Please contact the Macmillan Brown Library for access.



For further information on the collection, see the Antarctic Studies guide.

Antarctic resources held elsewhere

Aerial photographs are located at Gateway Antarctica.

Antarctica New Zealand also has a large range of resources, including a substantial pictorial collection (photographs, slides, paintings) and the Field Event reports from 1957 to present day.

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