This summer I had the opportunity to curate a wonderful exhibition. Bonhams, who sponsor the Artist in Residence programme at the Scott Polar Research Institute, kindly offered us the use of their showrooms in New Bond Street to hold a temporary exhibition. We eagerly took them up on their offer, and decided not only to feature some of our fantastic artists in residence, but also to display some of our historic collection as well.
Here I am, trying to look natural for the cameras while holding one of our platinum-palladium prints of Scott stood by his sledge, beautifully produced by Salto-Ulbeek
When Captain Scott was planning his second Antarctic expedition, usually known by the name of its ship the Terra Nova, he appointed his good friend Edward Wilson as the Chief Scientist. He also hired a photographer, Herbert Ponting, who preferred to be known as a camera artist. Ponting and Wilson liked and respected one another, and we know from their diaries that they discussed holding a joint exhibition of their work. Unfortunately Wilson perished along with Scott on the return journey from the pole, and the exhibition never happened.
We thought the opportunity at Bonhams was too good to miss – so a little over a century later we were able to reunite the works of Wilson and Ponting in one exhibition. You can find out more in this clip, broadcast on BBC Breakfast.
I’ve been the curator of the Polar Museum for a little over a month, and unsurprisingly the learning curve has been steep! As well as getting to grips with the running of the museum and all the practicalities that come with that, I’m trying to very quickly get up to speed with the history of the polar regions.
I asked twitter for some reading recommendations. I’ve ended up with a list that combines a combination of quick-hit short articles, about all sorts of things ranging from an unusual form of ‘cold turkey’ to polar aviation (thanks to @lizbruton and @dannybirchall), and some fascinating sounding books that I’ll work my way through over time, like @gabridli’s suggestion of The Idea of the North. I’d love to know what you would recommend, so get in touch with us and we’ll share your favourite polar reads.
This blog post was written following the Objects in Motion conference, held at CRASSH, University of Cambridge.
We often imagine that museum objects end their lives when they enter a collection. At the Objects in Motion conference, there was much discussion over whether museum collections are alive, dead, or just resting. Often museum objects have been through a long journey – from their native setting or perhaps another kind of a life to being stripped of their context, given a label and an identification number and placed reverently in a cool dark store to await an audience. An audience of researchers perhaps, arriving one at a time to eagerly inspect a particular quality of that object, or maybe an audience of millions when the object finds itself on display in a large national museum. Whichever of those is true, the question remains: are those objects alive?
13th-century wooden Tibetan book cover depicting the Buddha Shakyamuni on the night of his enlightenment. Credit: Wikimedia / Walters Art Museum.