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SPRI Review 2004: SPRI Polar Museum

SPRI Polar Museum

The Museum continues to introduce the polar regions to the general public and to parties from schools, and is also an excellent venue for regularly-held events such as book launches and receptions. This year has seen the important acquisition of Full Registration of the Museum under the national scheme operated by the Museum, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA). This is a very significant achievement, and recognizes formally that we operate at the appropriate national standards for, for example, access, display and curatorial care of our very significant polar collections.

An exhibition, 'Shackleton: the Hidden Collections', was a major event this year. The exhibition, which included Shackleton's diaries from each of his four Antarctic expeditions, was formally opened on 5 May by the Hon. Alexandra Shackleton, and the event was celebrated with a reception for about 100 guests. Much of the material was being displayed for the first time. We are grateful to members of the Shackleton family for their gifts to the Institute. The extensive preparations for the exhibition and the accompanying 'Virtual Shackleton' web site, produced by Caroline Gunn, were funded through generous support from the Gladys Krieble Delmas Fund and the UK Arts and Humanities Research Board. The exhibition has been visited by many people over the subsequent months. The clock presented to Shackleton at the beginning of the Quest expedition, and inscribed 'To the Boss from the Boys', was repaired at the expense of the Friends of the Institute and formed part of the exhibition.

Several other acquisitions were made during the year, including an interesting collection of indigenous artifacts from Devon Island, Arctic Canada. Joe McDowell gave a collection of artifacts he used in the Antarctic during the International Geophysical Year (1957-58) expedition. An unusual gift was a transverse section of mammoth tusk collected during the Vega expedition (1878-80) and made into a drink coaster. We are grateful for the donations of polar artifacts to the Museum, which enhance its reputation as a comprehensive collection from the 'Heroic Era' of polar exploration in particular. Jennifer Hirsh's continuing work with the museum records is also acknowledged and Tony Billingshurst, Larry Rockhill and Deirdre Hanna provided assistance in the Museum.

R.K. Headland