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Climate Co-Curation Project Blog Post – Part 3

Thursday, September 5th, 2019

This is the final blog about our Climate Co-Curation Project, where we invited twelve 16-17 year olds to spend a week in the museum and put together a framework for a temporary exhibition on climate change. The first two blogs talk about what co-curation projects are, how we chose our team of teenagers and what they got up to while they were with us at SPRI. Keep reading to find out what happened next.
The group were incredibly diligent, settling down to all the tasks set for them with the same enthusiasm and interest that they had displayed on the first day. Together, they were able to produce the framework for the exhibition which we need to make their ideas a reality. This included details of the sections to be included and the key points to be made, as well as object lists, information about the style and visual look of the display, and even ideas on how to market the exhibition to teenagers. As if that wasn’t enough, we also set them the challenge of presenting their decisions and pitching their exhibition to a group of new and familiar faces at the end of the week, with representatives from the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust, University Admissions offices and SPRI researchers all in attendance.

It’s not often that you get to sit in a room full of academics, researchers, and university staff left almost speechless by a presentation made by twelve 16-17 year olds. But that’s exactly what happened. Everyone who saw the presentation was blown away by their professionalism, nuanced understanding of complex ideas and well-thought through concepts. The atmosphere at SPRI was electric with pride and a lot of respect for all they had achieved.

To celebrate their successes, at the end of the week we were lucky enough to have a formal dinner at Downing college, as well as a tour of the grounds and the opportunity to speak with senior academics (a once daunting idea which by the end of the week our confident team was handling with ease). It was a kind gesture from the college and a fitting end to a week full of hard work, well done.

So what happens now? Our team have gone back to their homes all over the country but the hard work continues – for them, writing their personal statements full of new knowledge and skills learned over their week in Cambridge, and for us, the process of making their plans for a new temporary exhibition at SPRI a reality. The nitty-gritty of working out the floor plan, writing and printing the labels and making sure that all the objects are ready for display. This is work that couldn’t be done in a week, but which is only possible thanks to the dedication of the teenagers on the summer school. The opening of the exhibition is scheduled to be in late November and we can’t wait to have them all back to see it. Watch this space, and when it’s ready, please do come and have a look at what will be a testament to the hard work of a very talented group of young people.

Climate Co-Curation Project Blog Post – Part 2

Thursday, September 5th, 2019

If you’ve read our last blog about our recent Climate Co-Curation Project, you’ll know how we went about choosing our team, and why co-curation projects are so important. We invited twelve 16-17 year olds to join us for a week at SPRI to work out a framework for a temporary exhibition on climate change which will go on display in late November. Read on below to find out exactly what they got up to!


With only a week to get everyone up to speed on current climate research, as well as the ins and outs of producing a museum exhibition (not to mention the work of preparing our team for their university applications), each day was split into a number of sessions. Particular highlights were a whole morning of talks from current researchers at SPRI who outlined their work and suggested objects that might be put on display in the exhibition. The team loved finding out about the scientific research going on in the Polar Regions and also had their assumptions challenged about the use of polar bears as a ‘metaphor’ for climate change and the role of women in polar research. Further emphasising the importance of women in our understanding of the Polar Regions, they even had a video message from Dr. Chandrika Nath, the Executive Director of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research.

Later in the week, we spent a morning at the British Antarctic Survey in west Cambridge, having a similar series of talks from their researchers as well as a tour of different parts of the building. Something that no one will forget was being given 40,000 year old ice to hold and listening as it melted to the sound of 40,000 year old air bubbles escaping back into the atmosphere.

The museum team at SPRI also welcomed the co-curation team into their domain, running object handling sessions and leading tours of the museum and stores. Our group were challenged to link objects together to tell a story (even ones which didn’t seem to go together at all!) and to think about what makes an object good or bad for display. This was a whole new way of thinking for our team and they handled it very capably, listening and taking on board all that they heard, and putting it into practice in their decisions later in the week.

The nature of doing so much work in a week meant that there were a few late nights scheduled in. One of these was spent in Selwyn College, where we chose the key words which would go on to inform the themes and information displayed in the exhibition. The group had written a list of 9 possible key words together and we were all amazed when, during a task to narrow down their top three in small groups, they all came up with the same 4 words. Empowerment, research, cooperation and change were the names of the game, and what a nuanced selection they were.

As well as the work for the exhibition itself, we made sure to find time every day to reflect on the work we had done, what had been achieved and what new skills had been learned or honed along the way. This information was written down by the team into a ready-made skill-set, perfect for their personal statements. It was amazing to watch not only how the skills changed with each new day on the project, but also how the way the group thought about their learning changed along the way as well.
This is the second of three blogs about this project and we still have so much more to tell you! Make sure to read the final instalment where we’ll be talking presentations, celebrations and what happens next…

Climate Co-Curation Project Blog Post

Thursday, September 5th, 2019

The plan was this: invite twelve young people into the museum, fill their brains with information about the Polar Regions and museum displays and then ask them to produce the framework for a temporary exhibition about climate change. In a week.
There is a lot of buzz around ‘co-curation’ projects at the moment. The idea is, by bringing in an outside group of people to work alongside curators and other museum professionals, both sides gain new expertise and the resulting exhibition represents voices which might not otherwise be heard in the museum. It’s an effective way for both the staff and the public to learn more about collections, and it welcomes people who might not usually feel at home in museums. In this case, that underrepresented group was teenagers.


By delivering our co-curation project as part of a week-long residential summer school for 16-17 year olds just about to apply for university, we hoped that we could also show our team what life is like as a student at the University of Cambridge. Living and working in Selwyn College, they were able to spend their evenings in the college social spaces, eating in the dining hall, sleeping in student rooms (and even playing sardines in the college gardens). Dr. Matt Wise, Schools Liaison Officer at Selwyn and former PhD student at the Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI), took a leading role in the running of the course and ensured that student ambassadors were on hand all week to help settle the students into college life. All in all, we wanted to put our team in the best possible position to apply to study at Cambridge when applications open at the beginning of October – providing them with knowledge of the academic courses available and what they would entail, as well as an idea of the social lives of Cambridge students.


We had a staggering number of applicants for what was a very small summer school. Students submitted written applications and those who were shortlisted had skype interviews where we asked them difficult questions like, “Tell us about an object or image that you feel represents your personality” and “Can you talk to us about an exhibition or performance that has had an impact on you, whether positive or negative?” Eventually, we managed to narrow down applications from 130 at the start of the process, to just 12. This final group had representatives from all over the UK, from Birmingham to small Devonshire towns and London to the North East. We had 11 students from state schools and one from an independent school and they represented a whole host of different interests and perspectives on the climate crisis. There were geographers, an aspiring journalist and an economist, to name just a few. What they all had in common, though, was a thirst for knowledge and a dedication to reporting climate science and research to the public.


With the plan for the project all worked out and the team chosen, it wasn’t long before they began to arrive for the start of what was always destined to be a very busy week. From the very first moments of bringing them together, we knew something special was happening – strangers talked like old friends and the excitement to get started was palpable. Fortunately, we had lots to be getting on with…


Be sure to read the next in our series of blogs about our Climate Co-Curation Project to find out what our group did over their week in SPRI.

The residents of Rothera

Monday, February 6th, 2017

Award-winning artist Darren Rees received the Artist in Residency honour from the Friends of The Scott Polar Research Institute in 2015, and he travelled with the Royal Navy on HMS Protector from the Falkland Islands to the Antarctic Peninsula. His new book Ice Bound documents his journey with a collection of sketches, watercolour and acrylic paintings executed in situ.

Darren’s new exhibition is on show at the Polar Museum until 23 February, and features over seventy of the original artworks and small sketchbooks from Ice Bound – wonderfully showing us more of his methods, encounters and experiences in the far south. All artworks are for sale.

Of all the time during my residency, my time at the British Antarctic Survey base at Rothera was my most productive. The Royal Navy was tasked with pumping fuel for the forthcoming winter and to assist with survey work for improvements to the harbour area. This warranted an extended stay for HMS Protector and crew and I spent three full days on land at Rothera making the most of the landscape and its wild residents. In particular I enjoyed very close proximity to Antarctic Fur Seals, Antarctic (Blue-eyed) Shags, Adelie Penguins and especially the charismatic Southern Elephant Seals that were loafing around the buildings. These made great models as they were used to people walking around and were keen to exploit the relative shelter afforded by the buildings.

Studying elephant seals close up might not be to everyone’s liking as the experience was a full-on sensory overload. Breaking wind, belching and roaring, they sounded like orcs having an altercation at a steam engine rally. The aromas were rich and pungent and luckily I didn’t paint with scratch-n-sniff materials.

The landscape was equally as breath-taking and was irresistible to an artist with paint. After several days on the move aboard Protector, this was the first time I could sit and paint giant icebergs directly with no fear of the perspective or background moving.

Darren Rees

 

 

 

 

Ice Bound: In the Antarctic with artist Darren Rees

Friday, January 20th, 2017

Award-winning artist Darren Rees received the Artist in Residency honour from the Friends of The Scott Polar Research Institute in 2015, and he travelled with the Royal Navy on HMS Protector from the Falkland Islands to the Antarctic Peninsula. His new book Ice Bound documents his journey with a collection of sketches, watercolour and acrylic paintings executed in situ.

Darren’s new exhibition is at on at the Polar Museum, Cambridge from 18th January to 25th February 2017, with over seventy of the original artworks and small sketchbooks from Ice Bound, wonderfully showing us more of his methods, encounters and experiences in the far south. Not only that, but a full colour book and all of the artworks are available for sale.

It’s been a lifetime’s ambition to experience the natural wonders of Antarctica, and as a wildlife enthusiast I’ve always wanted to witness the large penguin colonies of the far south. I’ve been lucky enough to see penguins in the wild in Galapagos and South Africa – wonderful occasions for sure but these had been small groups of a dozen or so birds. My time as artist in residence started in the Falkland Islands where there are spectacular numbers of penguins and I had opportunities on three days to visit three colonies.

The first was close to Port Stanley, at Gypsy Cove, where there were hundreds of Magellanic Penguins hunkered amongst the grass tussocks on the low cliff slopes. Hundreds more were strewn across the perfect white sand beach below and there was no shortage of interesting models as I sketched and painted. It was also my first full day in the field – I had arrived the day before after a long flight from Brize Norton via Ascension Island – so there were new birds everywhere with Blackish Cinclodes, Upland Goose, Austral Thrush and Dark-throated Finch. In the shallow bay there were Peale’s Dolphins bursting through the water, with larger Sei Whales surfacing further out.

My second day took me to Telephone Cove where there was a colony of engaging Rockhopper Penguins – totally adorable! My guide for the day was a farmer called Adrian who loved showing people the prize exhibits on his land. He was also a keen sports fan and it was rather surreal spending the day sketching and painting penguins while he listened to Radio 5-live broadcasting International Rugby and then the League Cup Final footie from half-way around the world! 

Other side-show attractions included Peregrines, Giant Petrel, a beautiful dark Variable Hawk soaring with Turkey Vultures, and another Sei Whale in the bay. For the record Chelsea beat Spurs 2-0 with goals from John Terry and Diego Costa, yet Rockhoppers United were easily my team-of-the-day.

On the third day I met Peter, a local fisherman-cum-guide who took me to Volunteer Point. It was an amazing drive, first by road to Johnson’s Farm, then off-road across endless exposed moor to Volunteer Point. It’s a fantastic place and worth the bumpy, and at times muddy, ride. A broad, beautiful white beach stretched to turquoise surf, with grassy dunes and short turf and there were birds everywhere. Gentoo’s, Magellanic and King Penguins dotted the landscape in great numbers, and there was just too little time.. I took lots of photos for a frantic half hour before knuckling down to paint for nearly three hours. At first the weather was fine but then there was a slight drizzle in the air that just persisted and proved difficult for watercolours…

I persevered working with the King Penguins, and I recall being a little disappointed by my efforts but this could never ruin the experience of being there. Now I look back and even think that the spotting on the paintings – a little like a marbling effect – actually enhances the image.

Darren Rees

 

 

With thanks to Mascot Media publishers. Darren’s book is available in our shop, or directly from the publisher.

 

Operation Deep Freeze: Return to the South Pole

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016

On the 31st October 1956, Rear Admiral George Dufek, U.S. Navy and his companions flew towards the South Pole hoping to become the first people to stand at the South Pole since Captain Robert Falcon Scott RN and his companions had departed in 1912. Unlike Amundsen and Scott, who travelled south with dogs, ponies, motor sledges  and on ski and foot, Dufek and his men were in the comparative comfort of ‘Que Serra Serra’) a U.S Navy ski equipped version of the famous DC3 airliner and transporter. The plane was named after the popular Doris Day song, ‘Whatever will be will be, que sera serra’.

Hot air was blown through tubes to preheat the engines (source: US Navy)

Hot air was blown through tubes to preheat the engines (source: US Navy)

The purpose of the journey was to ascertain if a plane could land safely at the South Pole, where the Americans intended to build a scientific base for the International Geophysical Year (1957-58). In preparation for the flight, photographs from Amundsen’s and Scott’s expedition were studied to see the depth of their footprints, indicating the thickness of the snow, and ascertain if the surrounding area was flat enough to land a plane. This information and reconnaissance flights indicated that a landing could be made but in the event of an accident two large aircraft accompanied ‘Que Serra Serra’ and were ready to drop survival equipment.  Commander ‘Trigger’ Hawkes, an experienced Antarctic pilot was chosen as pilot along with Lieutenant Commander C.S. Shinn.  Hawkes chose to give the Shinn, a younger pilot, the honour of landing the plane at the South Pole.

Captain Hawkes interviews Rear Admiral Dufek at the South Pole but the film had frozen solid (source: US Navy)

Captain Hawkes interviews Rear Admiral Dufek at the South Pole but the film had frozen solid (source: US Navy)

The flight south followed the route pioneered by Sir Ernest Shackleton and chosen by Captain R.F. Scott: departing from Ross Island across the Ross ice Shelf, ascending up the Beardmore Glacier to the polar plateau and then on to the South Pole. Que Serra Serra arrived at the Pole and had a smooth landing. The American flag was raised and then Hawkes interviewed Dufek with a movie camera but later found out that the interview was not recorded as the film in the camera had frozen solid. A metal radar reflector was installed to assist future flights to find the same location.

Que Serra Serra prepares to take off from the South Pole (source: US Navy)

Que Serra Serra prepares to take off from the South Pole (source: US Navy)

Alarmingly, the men started to notice frostbite on each other’s faces and Dufek gave the order, ‘Let’s get the hell out of here.’ Preparing to take off, the pilots revved up the plane’s engines but it would not move; the skis had frozen to the snow and ice. To assist with taking off, Que Serra Serra had Jet Assisted take Off (JATO) rockets which were normally ignited once the plane was moving. Each JATO provided the equivalent amount of power an engine for 30 seconds.  Realising that he was stuck, Shinn ignited four JATOs at once, then another four, then another four and then his last three. The pilot and crew of the aircraft flying above were horrified to see a great cloud of smoke and flame but suddenly Que Serra Serra appeared – flying, albeit low and slow. Arriving back at McMurdo Station, Ross Island the news was broadcast that forty-four years after Amundsen’s and Scott’s great expeditions the American Stars and Stripes now flew at the South Pole.

The first Americans to stand at the South Pole (source: US Navy)

The first Americans to stand at the South Pole (source: US Navy)

Bryan Lintott

Shackleton Exhibition on International Tour – First Stop the Falkland Islands!

Thursday, May 19th, 2016

The Polar Museum Shackleton exhibition “By Endurance We Conquer: Shackleton and his Men” is going on international tour in 2016, and the first stop will be the Falkland Islands Museum in Stanley. This blog post tells the story of how we got the Shackleton exhibition to the Falkland Islands.

It all started back in February 2016 when I e-mailed Leona Roberts, Director of the Falklands Islands Museum & National Trust to see whether they were interested in working with SPRI and willing to show the Shackleton exhibition. Straight away Leona replied to say that they would be “absolutely delighted” to take it. She thought the exhibition would be of enormous interest to both local people in the Falkland Islands and to visitors, and it would allow the Museum to mark the centenary of Shackleton’s Endurance expedition in a way that they could not hope to do so otherwise. I was very fortunate to be able to visit the Falkland Islands between 13 – 20 March 2016 to meet Leona and help organise and plan the exhibition. I had a busy week on the islands, and as well as seeing Leona and the Museum team, I also met the Museum Trustees, the Governor of the Falkland Islands – Mr Colin Roberts and members of the Falkland Islands Legislative Council to tell them about the exhibition. Everybody I met was very enthusiastic and supportive and made generous offers of help. While I was in Stanley, I took the opportunity to visit the Jane Cameron National Archives and was shown a fascinating photographic album produced by the Falkland Islands naturalist A.G. Bennett in the early 1900s. The album contained several original photographs taken by Bennett of “The Shackleton expedition at Stanley 1916”.

Shackleton 31 May 1916. Image: A G Bennett Collection, Jane Cameron National Archives. The Falkland Islands.

Shackleton 31 May 1916. Image: A G Bennett Collection, Jane Cameron National Archives. The Falkland Islands.

Back in the UK, staff in the Polar Museum worked hard to get the exhibition ready to send to the Falkland Islands before the end of April. Bryan Lintott, the curator of the Shackleton exhibition, used the Bennett photographs to develop new exhibition content to tell the story of Shackleton in the Falkland Islands during 1916, Charlotte Connelly, the Museum Curator, prepared the exhibition license agreement with the University legal services team, and I worked out the logistics to ship the exhibition the 12,700 km from Cambridge to Stanley.  As well as the fifteen exhibition information panels, we also needed to freight a replica scale wooden model of the lifeboat the “James Caird” made especially by the polar explorer Seb Coulthard for the Museum, along with a couple of boxes of Shackleton merchandise for their shop. To protect the exhibition panels from damage during transport we had special protective cardboard boxes made up for us by a local company Performance Packing UK in Haddenham.

James Caird model by Seb Coulthard

James Caird model by Seb Coulthard

 

Packed and ready to go (Bryan Lintott, left, and John Shears, right.)

Packed up and ready to go (Bryan Lintott, left, and John Shears, right.)

On Friday 22 April the shipment was finally all packed up and ready to go at SPRI. Bryan and I then drove it to Chiltern Air Freight in Colnbrook, Berkshire. Chiltern Air Freight, in partnership with Sulivan Shipping in Stanley, have for many years provided regular freight services to the Falkland Islands. Our shipment was very different from the usual freight boxes but Chiltern Air Freight looked after it with great care and attention. It went by air freight from London, UK to Miami, USA and then to Montevideo in Uruguay where it arrived on 28 April. In Montevideo, the freight was transhipped from the airport to the docks and loaded on to the Falkland Islands resupply vessel MV Scout, and it finally arrived in Stanley on 5 May.

 

Falkland Islands Museum Manager Andrea Barlow takes a first peek at the newly arrived packages.

Falkland Islands Museum Manager Andrea Barlow takes a first peek at the newly arrived packages.

The Shackleton exhibition has now been delivered safely to the Falkland Islands and is being put up at the Museum as I write. The exhibition will be opened by the Governor on 31 May 2016 – exactly 100 years to the day that Sir Ernest Shackleton, along with Frank Worsley and Tom Crean, arrived in the islands to organise the rescue of their companions marooned on Elephant Island in Antarctica.

John Shears

Telling the story of Shackleton and his men

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015

The Polar Museum’s new exhibition, By Endurance We Conquer: Shackleton and his Men, is now open! But how have we gone about telling the story of Shackleton and his men?

The first stage in putting together an exhibition like this is research: understanding the history of the event, the objects, images and archival material that may be available, and then collating this information into a useable format. During this phase, ideas start to emerge about a major theme upon which to tell the story. In this exhibition it’s about the expedition and all of the men (and Mrs Chippy the cat). Each member of the expedition has their own portrait and biography. To enhance their stories, a range of personal artefacts, documents and letters are on display. These range from James Wordie’s sailing hat to formal log books and affection letters to loved ones.

Image 1

The story of the expedition is revealed through images from Scott Polar Research Institute’s Picture Library and quotes from the men’s journals and books. On display is the Endurance spar, the largest extant piece of the Endurance that is not on the seabed. On a smaller scale is Shackleton’s pannikin that travelled with him all the way from England, and later aboard the James Caird and across South Georgia. The cooking pot that he used with Frank Worsley and Tom Crean on this epic mountain crossing is also on display.

Image 2

The visual design of the exhibition was inspired by George Marston’s paintings, and the contrast between the Antarctic day and night. Whilst blue and white are the colours associated with Antarctica, they become merged in Marston’s pictures and the background colours of the exhibition panels. An image of Endurance marooned in a frozen sea is on panel, and emphasises the vast area in which the tiny ship and its crew were trapped.

Image 3

The Endurance spar, which is normally kept in the Institute’s Friends’ Room is now on public display for museum visitors to see. Moving this large and important artefact was skilfully undertaken by the museum team and as – usually – happens, it all went smoothly.

Image 4

The exhibition will run until 18 June 2016. We hope that you can come and discover the amazing story of how Shackleton and his men survived near disaster in the most hostile environment on the planet.

Bryan

So Fargo, so good…

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015

The Wells Fargo Museum in Anchorage has a fantastic collection of artefacts made by the native peoples of Alaska, including the Aleut, Athabascans, Tlingit, Inupiat and Yupik. These groups have a very varied and beautiful material culture, and we are excited to be borrowing a large number of objects made by these people from the Wells Fargo Museum for our special exhibition in the summer and autumn of 2016.

Organising a loan exhibition when the lending museum is on the other side of the world brings its own challenges. Not the least of these is that a lot of historic Alaskan native artefacts are made using animal material covered by CITES laws on the trade in endangered species. This means that many of them have to have special licences to travel to the UK. Arranging these is a complex task for Willow!

The Wells Fargo Museum (which has a wonderful-sounding address on Northern Lights Boulevard, Anchorage) very generously gave us a choice of over 100 artefacts to borrow. But we only have room for about half that number in our show cases, so we had to choose. We only want to bring over the objects we can show and no more, since transporting museum artefacts round the world is risky for them, not to mention complicated and expensive.

The exhibition is being curated at the Polar Museum by the delightful Larry Rockhill, a SPRI Emeritus Associate and expert in Alaskan art:

Image of person

Using database printouts from Wells Fargo, Larry drew up a shortlist of the objects he wanted to tell the stories in the exhibition. Then we set about checking how many we have room for – the old-fashioned way.

I measured the footprints of all our display cases and shelves, and then taped these out with masking tape on a huge table in the Map Room. Next, using measurements from the Wells Fargo database, I cut out paper footprints of all the objects on the shortlist so we could see how much room they would take up on display. Then Larry and I arranged all the object footprints inside the display case footprints. We didn’t have room for everything, but this process helped us narrow the list down further and work out which objects were most important.

IMG_20150521_123924387_HDR  IMG_20150521_123930430

While we were looking in detail at how the objects will fit in the cases, we were also able to work out which ones will need display mounts. I am particularly excited about a group of prehistoric animal and human figures made from ivory, which are thousands of years old. They are all very small and so will need to be displayed thoughtfully to bring out their understated beauty.  This is a similar ivory carving recently sold at Sotheby’s – it is 2000 years old and just over 5 inches high.

N08386-74-lr-1.jpg.thumb.385.385

Now that the object list is finalised, we can go ahead and arrange transport to the UK – with any luck there is still plenty of time to do all the paperwork before next summer…

 

 

Sophie

All things Shackleton…

Friday, August 14th, 2015
SPRI P66/18/36. Frank Wild (left) and Ernest Shackleton (right).

SPRI P66/18/36. Frank Wild (left) and Ernest Shackleton (right).

This year we are in the midst of commemorating the centenary of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition 1914–17 (Endurance and Aurora), led by Sir Ernest Shackleton. It’s a tale that hardly needs retelling: Shackleton and his men survived one of the worst disasters in Antarctic history – their ship was crushed and sank, and they were forced to make an open boat journey to Elephant Island where they lived for over four months before they were rescued.

With just under six weeks to go until the opening of our new exhibition, By Endurance We Conquer: Shackleton and his Men, we’ve got Shackleton very much on our minds. The exhibition will commemorate all the men that sailed with Shackleton aboard the Endurance, and will also honour the Ross Sea Party (three of whom lost their lives), which laid the supply depots for the planned crossing of the Antarctic continent. This week saw the arrival of some of the objects we’re borrowing for the exhibition, including a pannikin which belonged to Shackleton himself and is marked with his initials, ‘E.H.S.’, and a yachtsman’s cap belonging to James Mann Wordie, expedition geologist.

New arrivals for By Endurance We Conquer: Shackleton and his Men

New arrivals for By Endurance We Conquer: Shackleton and his Men

We’ve spent several months drawing together information about all of the men from the Endurance expedition to create biographies for use in the exhibition and in touch-screens in the galleries. And we’ve just launched a volunteer project to put these biographies (and others) into our database, which has proved highly popular and has had an impressive sign-up.

However, we’re not just concerned with the Endurance expedition – our Shackleton focus extends to his other expeditions: the British National Antarctic Expedition 1901–04 (Discovery), led by Captain Robert Falcon Scott; the British Antarctic Expedition 1907–09 (Nimrod); and the Shackleton-Rowett Expedition 1921–22 (Quest), on which Shackleton died.

In 2014 SPRI received a generous grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund for By Endurance We Conquer: The Shackleton Project, which will unite the collections at SPRI (Archive, Museum, Library and Picture Library) through new acquisitions and interpretation of material relating to Sir Ernest Shackleton.

Photographing objects from the British Antarctic Expedition 1907-09 (Nimrod) for the Antarctic Cataloguing Project.

Photographing objects from the British Antarctic Expedition 1907-09 (Nimrod) for the Antarctic Cataloguing Project.

The museum collection contains material from all of Shackleton’s expeditions, including foodstuffs, goggles, medals and a thermometer from Nimrod; and crampon shoes, a sledging flag and a clock from Quest; as well as boots, Shackleton’s goggles, and the sextant used by Worsley during his extraordinary feat of navigation on the crossing from Elephant Island to South Georgia. Over the past few weeks as part of the Antarctic Cataloguing Project, we’ve been looking carefully at all of these objects and getting them photographed in order to produce detailed records for our forthcoming online catalogue. We’ve also been condition assessing them to highlight any future conservation needs. In addition, the education and outreach team have been working to create new Shackleton-related educational resources and a programme of events.

The Archives contain Shackleton’s diaries from all of his expeditions, as well as correspondence, lecture notes, poetry and papers written by Shackleton himself and his wife Emily. The collection also includes the diaries and papers of members of Nimrod, Endurance and Quest expeditions. These are currently being added to the database so that they will be a searchable resource in the future.

By Endurance We Conquer: Shackleton and his Men will open on Tuesday 22 September 2015 and run until 18 June 2016. To find out more about events commemorating the centenary of the Endurance expedition at SPRI and across the world, take a look at the Shackleton 100 website.

Greta