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.
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.
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.
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.
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.