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The creation of an exhibition « The Polar Museum: news blog

The Polar Museum: news blog

The creation of an exhibition

Creating exhibitions for The Polar Museum is challenging. It requires intense research and dealing with a wealth of material (much of which is original) but being limited by space – and managing the expertise and enthusiasm of Polar community curators as they endeavour to share their knowledge and experience of the Arctic and Antarctica. It is also deeply rewarding to be at the edge of current research, providing exhibitions that convey the present state of knowledge and also to raise questions about new fields of research. 

Each exhibition is unique; conveying an artist’s response to the Polar Regions; communicating the latest scientific research; or discussing historical themes and characters. Sometimes all three of these aspects can be in one exhibition. One size does not fit all, and creating a narrative structure on which to base an exhibition is a core task.

Polar Hydrography 1

Our current exhibition, Sea Monsters to Sonar: Mapping the Polar Oceans was the idea of Dr John Ash an associate of the Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI) and former submariner. To gather ideas and material for the exhibition, he and I travelled to Portsmouth and visited HMS Protector, the Royal Navy's polar patrol vessel and one equipped with excellent facilities for mapping; we also visited the nearby Submarine Museum. We had the privilege of visiting the United Kingdom's Hydrographic Office (UKHO) where we saw original polar maps and charts and the latest developments in mapping the seabed and coastlines of the harsh Polar Regions. The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) were also very helpful with information from their Mapping and Geographic Information Centre (MAGIC) and they kindly loaned us a model of the James Clark Ross, a scientific vessel that they operate.

Inspired and informed by our colleagues at the Scott Polar Research Institute, the ideas for the exhibition began to emerge until we were ready to develop themes, design panels and choose the final items for display. Fortunately, our Conservator, Sophie Rowe, is fluent in Danish and assisted in securing replicas of Inuit driftwood maps, the originals of which are in the National Museum of Greenland. Here in Cambridge, the University Library kindly loaned a Mercator Atlas and the Whipple Museum of the History of Science provided an instrument for measuring depth. SPRI's own collections provided a rich source of visual, archival and artistic material. Exhibitions are a team effort and thanks to expert and enthusiastic support from our colleagues John’s vision is now a ‘live’ exhibition.

Polar Hydrography 2

When a visitor leaves The Polar Museum we hope that they know more than when they entered but we also hope that they're now curious to know even more about the Polar Regions. The current exhibition, Sea Monsters to Sonar: Mapping the Polar Oceans, offers science, art, history and a 'submarine'! Once again we hope to have combined several interesting themes to create another informative and engaging exhibition.

Bryan Lintott, Exhibitions Officer

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