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Building and grounds

In 1934 the Institute moved to its own building in Lensfield Road, designed by Sir Herbert Baker, with funding from the Mansion House Fund and the Pilgrim Trust. During the 1930s it became a base for a number of valuable scientific expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic. During World War II it served the Government as a centre for research into cold weather warfare, clothing and equipment. Since the War it developed further to become an international centre for research and reference in a variety of fields related to polar environments, historical, scientific and social. It is now a listed building.

In 1960, the Ford Foundation enabled the Institute to meet the challenge of an explosion in polar information and research following World War II. An extension containing offices, laboratories, cold rooms and a lecture theatre were added, as well as much needed space for the library and its staff.

It took three years to plan and build the Shackleton Memorial Library in honour of the contributions made to polar research by Sir Ernest Shackleton and his son, Lord Shackleton. A successful appeal allowed the Institute to embark on a major expansion of the Library, Archives (now "The Thomas H. Manning Polar Archives") and map collection. It also provided a new Picture Library and new working spaces for postgraduate students and administrative staff. It was officially opened on 20 November 1998 by the Honourable Alexandra Shackleton, the daughter of Lord Shackleton. In 1999 it won one of four awards for the Eastern Region by the Royal Institute of British Architecture.

Front facade of the Scott Polar Research Institute

The Latin inscription along the northern architrave of the building, "QUAESIVIT ARCANA POLI VIDET DEI", may be translated as:

He sought the secret of the pole
but found the hidden face of God

'Youth' by Kathleen Scott (SPRI Museum Z: 315) Photo: Sir Cam

The statue in the garden was cast by Lady Kathleen Scott (Captain Scott's widow) around 1922. (The model was A.W. Lawrence, younger brother of Lawrence of Arabia and later Cambridge Professor of Classical Archaeology.) It was presented to the Institute for the opening of the 1934 building.

The Latin inscription on its pedestal, "LUX PERPETUA LUCEAT EIS" may be rendered as "MAY ETERNAL LIGHT SHINE UPON THEM.".


Trypot (Photo: Kay Smith)

The large black try-put is a relic of the Antarctic seal industry and was collected at South Georgia in 1951 by Dr R.M. Laws. It was probably made in Wapping Docks, London, and taken to the island about 1800. A note in the Museum describes its use.

Bust of Robert Falcon Scott by Kathleen Scott (Photo: J.A. Dowdeswell)

The bust of Captain Scott in the entablature was also cast by Lady Scott.