Library volunteers ride the waves of discovery

This story was published 26 June 2018

Whitby library is inviting local people to delve into the art and science of Captain James Cook as part of the Cook 250 festival, a celebration of the 250th anniversary of the explorer’s first expedition to the South Seas in 1768.


Funded by the Arts Council, Whitby Library has been working with Scarborough-based art and science organisation Invisible Dust, the County Record Office and volunteers from Whitby and Great Ayton libraries on projects to contribute to the Cook 250 festival, which is organised by Scarborough Borough Council and local groups.

Volunteers from Whitby Library and Great Ayton Discovery Centre visited the County Record Office in Northallerton to uncover hidden treasures for an exhibition over the festival weekend entitled Archive Explorers: Riding the Waves of Discovery!

Archive Explorers is a journey into Whitby’s past and the natural world at the time of Captain Cook, using unique material held at the County Record Office. On their visits, the volunteers gained access to maps, sketches, recipes, contemporary records of the Whitby Naturalist Society and other material that puts into sharp contrast the changes in the town over 250 years.

Among the finds was information about the transit of Venus, which was measured by Cook when he visited Tahiti in the hope of finally giving scientists the data they needed to answer one of the big questions in astronomy at that time: how far from the sun was the Earth?

North Yorkshire County Councillor Greg White, Executive Member for Libraries, said: “Much has been written about Cook and his importance to history, but I am intrigued by what the Archive Explorers have found hidden in the archives that perhaps puts the focus on the ‘real’ people and what they can tell us about our past. Our County Record Office is a treasure trove of material and I’m delighted that the volunteers from Whitby Library and Great Ayton Discovery Centre have had the opportunity to delve into its secrets…an opportunity that I hope others will take advantage of.”

The Archive Explorers will be on hand in the library on Saturday, 7 July, from 10am to noon and from 1pm to 3pm and on Sunday, 8 July, from 11am to 1pm to share their discoveries from the County Record Office. They will be joined by archivist Anthony Hughes on Saturday to cast further light on the treasure in the County Record Office. See a full list of the activities at Whitby Library over the festival weekend.