The library holds a collection of more than 15,000 book volumes, focusing on the polar areas.

A major part of the collection consists of documents about Arctic and Antarctic expeditions and the exploration history of these regions. The second main focus is on modern scientific literature that pertains to the polar areas.

The Norwegian Polar Institute Library is open to the public and you are welcome to visit and use the collections.


The Norwegian Polar Institute’s photo library consists of a total of 100,000 photographs (approximately 60,000 photos from the polar regions) dating 140 years back from 1872 and up to today. A range of interesting historical pictures may be found, as well as depictions of polar landscapes, wildlife and field work.

The Norwegian Polar Institute’s photo library

Search photos


Polar map archive

The archice holds old maps from Norges Svalbard- og Ishavs-undersøkelse around the time of the naming of Svalbard as well as maps from Greenland and early Antarctic maps.

Search maps

Original maps

A collection of original maps, mostly Dutch from the 16th century. The library has had good-quality facsimile versions of five maps from the collection reproduced. These can be purchased from the library for NOK 100 each, or NOK 400 for the whole set.

Overview of Norwegian Polar Institute historical maps

Ice limit archive

This archive contains large parts of the basic data for the report, ACSYS Historical Ice Chart Archive (1553-2002).

Overview of the Norwegian Polar Institute historical ice limit archive (PDF, 0,6MB)

Nobile collection

This collection consists of nearly 800 letters, newspaper cuttings, manuscripts and other material connected with Umberto Nobile.

The Dane Ove Hermansen (1933–) corresponded for many years with Nobile and other people connected with the disastrous crash of Nobile’s airship Italia in 1928. In 2004, Hermansen donated the entire collection to the Polar Museum in Tromsø and the Norwegian Polar Institute. It is now kept in the Polar Institute library.

Catalogue of Ove Hermansen’s Nobile collection (norsk, PDF, 0.1MB)

Aerial images

The aerial image archive consists of about 57 000 images from Spitzbergen, Greenland and The Antarctic, dating back to 1932. Aerial images after 2008 are taken with digital cameras.

Images may be orded through

Newspaper cuttings

Biography archive

Two large archive cupboards filled with biographical material about people connected with the polar regions.

Overview of people represented in the biography archive (PDF, 0.1MB)

Newspaper cutting archive

Catalogue of newspaper cuttings collected by Norges Svalbard- og Ishavs-undersøkelser and the Norwegian Polar Institute from the end of the 1920s until shortly after 2000.

Catalogue of Norwegian Polar Institute newspaper cuttings (PDF, 0.1MB)

Gustav Smedal’s newspaper cutting archive

Five shelf metres of folders containing newspaper clippings collected by Gustav Smedal, who was a central person in polar circles in Norway before the last war. He was particularly engaged in the Greenland issue in the 1920s and 1930s.

Overview of Gustav Smedal’s newspaper cutting archive (PDF, 0.1MB)



The library has just over 300 diaries, mostly written by wintering trappers in Svalbard and Greenland and members of polar expeditions. The collection contains both originals and transcripts. An increasing number of these are available in full text.

Overview of Norwegian Polar Institute diaries

The diaries of Norwegian Polar Institute in full text

Ships’ logbooks

Log books from ships that have participated in expeditions, hunting or research. Only the original logs are available for consultation.

Overview of Norwegian Polar Institute vessel log books

Ship register and ships’ logbooks

Ship register

Kjell-G. Kjær’s historical register of polar vessels is a database containing details of some 1,500 vessels built before 1940 that were used in Arctic waters, for sealing, exploration and other purposes. The information has been collected by Kjær through many years of work visiting archives and examining open sources.

Magnus Sefland’s historical register of polar vessels overlaps Kjær’s register thematically and also has some vessels built after 1940. This register is stored in ring binders, please contact the library of The Norwegian Polar Institute for information.

Ships’ logbooks

Log books from ships that have participated in expeditions, hunting or research. Only the original logs are available for consultation.

Overview of Norwegian Polar Institute vessel log books

Archives of The Norwegian Polar Institute

Norsk Polarinstitutts eldre arkiver er avlevert til Statsarkivet i Tromsø.

Arkivet fra Norsk Polarinstitutt (med forløpere [*]) er forskningsmessig interessant for flere fagfelt. En rekke naturvitenskapelige disipliner er representert i materialet, blant annet biologi, geografi, geologi og glasiologi. I tillegg er arkivet interessant for polarhistorisk forskning generelt og for mer spesielle prosjekter, f. eks. innenfor kartlegging og økonomisk utnyttelse av naturressurser i polarstrøk.

[*] Statlig norsk polarforskning har i hovedsak vært organisert i tre forskjellige tiltak. Det første var De norske statsunderstøttede Spitsbergenekspedisjoner (DNSS), som regnes å ha fungert i perioden 1906–1928. Etterfølgeren Norges Svalbard- og Ishavsundersøkelser (NSIU) ble opprettet i 1928. I 1948 ble så Norsk Polarinstitutt etablert som en videreføring og utvidelse av NSIU.


English translations of Russian scientific articles

Between 1971 and 1997, Peter Hagevold translated more than 1000 articles from Russian scientific publications. Some of the early ones were translated into Norwegian, but the majority were translated into English. Copies of the articles can be purchased from the library.

Pamphlet collection

Around 6000 pamphlets of various kinds, including manuscripts, journal articles, book chapters, booklets and brochures. All the documents in this collection are registered in BIBSYS.