Tonight is the final late-night opening for our 2011 Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition. It is now sold out, so if you haven’t already bought a ticket then your next opportunity for a late night visit won't be until October when the 2012 exhibition opens at the Museum and the last Friday of that month! It's popular because it's such a great exhibition.
However, we have another excellent exhibition open late tonight - Scott’s Last Expedition. And a few tickets are still available by phone or at walk-up, so why not make it a part of your Friday night out?
If you have never been to After Hours with Mastercard, the first thing you will see when you cross the threshold into the magnificent terracotta Central Hall is the red-lit Diplodocus standing guard over our pop-up restaurant, the Blue Bar, and you will hear jazz spilling out from one of the alcoves. There is a hostess on hand to seat you if you want to have a meal.
Above: At After Hours, the Central Hall's BIue Bar restaurant offers a choice of three bowl platter menus from smoked haddock pie to chicken paella and vegetable tagine... somewhat different to the menu at Captain Scott's table in the Terra Nova hut recreated in a stylised form in our Scott exhibition, below.
If you just want to catch an exhibition and a drink at our After Hours evenings, then you have a number of options: turn right, down Fossil Way to our Red Bar, or go straight ahead, to the Gold Bar. And, if you are coming to the Mastercard bar, turn left down Dinosaur Way.
Humans being what they are, their eating and drinking offers a fascinating way of relating to the past. For example, this week the luncheon menu from the Titanic, the one served on the day it hit the iceberg - also 100 years ago this year - has been in the news. Reading it, one is instantly transported back to that era so readily that one can hear the tinkling of the piano in the dining room or think about the steerage passengers’ conditions once you see that corned beef, vegetables and dumplings were on the menu, in addition to all the fancy fare.
Above: Scott's last expedition supplies included Fraser River salmon, Dutch Edam cheese and Huntley & Palmers biscuits. The original products are on display in our exhibition.
Being able to actually see one of the real menus for yourself would add in a powerful extra dimension to the impact. So it proves, when you visit Scott’s Last Expedition and see the handwritten menu cut into the shape of an Emperor penguin, with the signatures of Scott's men who ate the meal on the back. That and the original orange tins, worn with age, of Huntley and Palmers Digestive Biscuits (Plain), or the green tin of Lyle and Sons’ Golden Syrup; the box of caster sugar; the jam and cocoa; the Fraser River salmon - just some of the original artefacts (shown above) from the mammoth load of supplies the expedition took to Antarctica.
Suppliers were generous to the expedition: Abram Lyle and Sons gave 450kg of golden syrup, Henry Tate & Sons 2,300 kgs of sugar, Huntley and Palmers donated large amounts of digestive biscuits and Beaches gave a range of jams, including 130 kgs of blackcurrant. Frys and Sons donated a range of chocolate and cocoa.
Scott's cubicle is recreated in our Scott exhibition and shows where he wrote his famous diaries.
Scott’s prodigious diaries show how and when these supplies were used. For example, the biscuits were used as sledging rations and, when mixed with pony meat, they became the famous ‘hoosh’ of which the expedition grew so fond (particularly when eating it was a matter of life or death during their travels in Antarctica).
The impact of this close-up experience is heightened in our exhibition when you turn a corner, and see footage of the unloading of those supplies from Scott’s ship, the Terra Nova, as part of Herbert Ponting’s evocative film of the expedition, The Great White Silence. We've just announced a Scott competition which gives you the chance to win a pair of tickets to our Scott exhibition and to see Ponting's film screened at the BFI cinema on 21 March.
I remember a teacher once saying to me ‘nothing remains of a civilisation except its art’. Sometimes all that remains of an historical event is its artefacts, so why not take the opportunity of engaging with Scott’s Last Expedition at After Hours this Friday through the medium of its artefacts?
You can also take part in what promises to be a fascinating debate on the contemporary issues facing the great white continent, The Scramble for Antarctica?, which is part of our series of Scott evening events