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Bringing new life to a special collection – the 30th anniversary of Jon Sanders’ record breaking triple circumnavigation of the world

Special collections are unique, valuable but often obscure. The challenge is to bring their rich content to life and enable further scholarship and research.

Curtin Library took a small special collection centred around an event from 30 years ago of intense local interest with a global scope, with the goal of stimulating interest and further use of the special collection through the re-telling of that record breaking story. How did they bring together the dry handwritten log entries and adventures on the high seas for the audience of today?
This is that story of how Curtin Library brought to life the special collection The Project Endeavour: Jon Sanders’ Triple Circumnavigation of the World

Bringing life to a special collection, revealing its rich unique content and opening the door for further research and scholarship – that is a challenge.

Jon Sanders sailed solo and non-stop three times around the world departing on 25 May 1986 and returning on 13 March 1988. He was the first person to single-handedly complete three non-stop circumnavigations. The triple circumnavigation was the longest distance sailed continuously by any vessel (131,535 km).

The Project Endeavour: Jon Sanders’ Triple Circumnavigation of the World Collection was donated to Curtin University Library in 2007 by Emeritus Professor John Penrose from Curtin’s Centre for Marine Science and Technology (CMST) and contains material relating to the extraordinary, record breaking and awe inspiring journey by Jon Sanders. In 2009 Jon Sanders added to the collection the five log books which chronicle his journey in his own words and a number of oral histories.

Curtin Library decided to commemorate the 30th anniversary by some traditional exhibiting of material from the collection but also by re-enacting the journey day by day for the more than 600 days, starting on the exact same day of the 30th anniversary. This would give an audience time to get on board with the journey and interest could be built over the long time period leading up to the triumphal return, which would likely be marked by many celebrations.  It was decided to use social media for this purpose. This would involve using a mix of technical wizardly, social media nous and old fashioned slog to create a compelling data flow that could be sustained 7 days a week for over 600 days.

This talk will explore what was done and how it has gone and consider implications for other attempts to bring new life to special collections.