Library volunteers ride the waves of discovery for Cook celebration

This story was published 21 September 2018

Great Ayton Discovery Centre is holding an exhibition about Captain Cook to mark the 250th anniversary of the explorer’s first expedition to the South Seas in 1768.

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Funded by the Arts Council, volunteers from Great Ayton Discovery Centre and Whitby Library have been working with the County Record Office and Scarborough-based art and science organisation Invisible Dust. They visited the County Record Office in Northallerton to uncover hidden treasures for an exhibition entitled Archive Explorers: Riding the Waves of Discovery! The exhibition was launched at Whitby Library and has now moved to Great Ayton Discovery Centre, where it will be launched on Wednesday, 26 September.

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 examined 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 the intriguing finds of the Archive Explorers perhaps put the focus on ‘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 I hope others will take advantage of.”

Staff from the County Record Office will be on hand on 26 September to cast further light on the treasure in the County Record Office.