Scott's Last Expedition Exhibition May 15, 2012
The Scott's Last Expedition exhibition at the Natural History Museum is wonderful. I popped along there last week, paid my entrance fee, walked through the door and found myself immersed in the 1910s. The exhibition is really well put together, leading through different aspects, from sourcing supplies, and funding, to crossing the seas to get to Antarctica, to the hut and the preparations being made, through to the assault on the pole, and then on to the scientific legacy left behind. I spent 2.5 happily absorbing hours there.
I think that this exhibition, for me, was so effective because of the way in which it provided the background details, the quantities of the foodstuffs taken (450kg of golden syrup), the social and environmental backgrounds, giving me a much deeper understanding of what it was like, not just what happened. It made the tale real, rather than just an oft-told story, and it took me on the journey with it through the different stages. I loved that it reminded me just how remote Antarctica was then with a once a year mail delivery/collection meaning that the menfolk wrote letter diaries to their loved ones - whole notebooks worth of correspondence which once per year would be collected and dispatched. Just imagine the excitement and trepidation that the folks at home would feel when there once yearly dispatch was expected, with the letters telling of the highs and lows of life in a wooden hut on a frozen land. Imagine how news would be passed around the family and friends who hadn’t heard anything for a year, how treasured these must have been, read and re-read until there was a danger of them falling apart. Some of these letter diaries are included amongst the exhibits and they strike me as precious, real (although possibly understated due to both the period of history and the desire not to upset and worry the folks back home) and amazing reflections of what life was like at the time, not just a reflection from a later time.
I’d heartily recommend the exhibition, but I would say that I think it benefits from having plenty of time to absorb all the information, watch the videos, listen to the audio and generally be fascinated and consumed by it.