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Transforming the Polar Museum

A new museum for Britain's polar heritage

Museum logoAntarctic gallery after renovation, 2010

The Museum before redevelopment, March 2009The Scott Polar Research Institute cares for an unrivalled collection of art and artefacts illustrating the history of polar exploration, with particular emphasis on British expeditions of the "Heroic Age". The Institute also has an international reputation for its research on the Arctic and Antarctic, in both the natural and social sciences.

The Museum welcomes visits from school and other groups, as well as from members of the public, and provides outreach in the areas of both the history of polar exploration and the significance of the polar regions for contemporary environmental change. We are now engaged on a programme of development to open up our collections and engage new audiences through a major redesign of our Museum space.

Since April 2009, we have undertaken a comprehensive redevelopment of the Polar Museum and associated curatorial and storage spaces. Our audience is broad, ranging from school parties, through the general public, to students and scholars of the University of Cambridge and students and researchers from other FE/HE institutions worldwide.

Draft design for a new showcase

Our aim is to enhance the role of our museum in projecting the UK's polar heritage and the wider significance of the Arctic and Antarctic to the public through new museum displays, highlighting our extensive polar collections of artefacts, artwork, historic photographs and archival documents. Our collections are unrivalled and include, for example, the last letters of Captain R.F. Scott and his companions, the four expedition diaries of Sir Ernest Shackleton, the Antarctic photographs of Herbert Ponting (acquired with a previous HLF grant), and extensive records, artwork and artefacts from the British search for the Northwest Passage.

The polar regions are important both for the history of their exploration, which includes first encounters and subsequent interactions with the native northern peoples, and for their contemporary significance in the context of global environmental change. We have woven together the many narratives of polar exploration, and the development of scientific investigations of the Arctic and Antarctic in which Scott's expeditions were prominent, culminating with the role of ice and climate at the poles in the environmental future of our world. The stories are told through innovatively designed and lit displays, use of film and still photography and multilayered audio-guides.