For the past 30 years the history of the exploration of the Arctic has been the focus of his research. He has published 16 books, including translations from French, German, and Russian. In 2006, William Barr received a Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to the recorded history of the Canadian North from the Canadian Historical Association.
Most of the titles of his works show that William Barr is an admirer of Russian Arctic explorers. His contribution has been crucial to make known to the wider public the exploits of Polar explorations by Russia and the Soviet Union.