It may be a mild January so far, but inside the Museum there's a distinctly Antarctic atmosphere. After the mammoth operation that was the royal opening of our Scott’s Last Expedition exhibition last week (see the recent What’s New blog for the news) I had been ‘pacing myself’ on the return back to normality (i.e. slacking) this week. But I was instantly revitalised on discovering that this Friday’s After Hours with MasterCard is listed in both Time Out's Critics Choice and the Daily Telegraph as one of the top things to do this weekend in London.
The reason this After Hours has been picked out in this delightful fashion is because we have two top exhibitions opening late, and it won’t cost the earth to come and see them, always attractive at this time of the year.
A ticket to Scott’s Last Expedition is £9 (£8 excluding voluntary donation) and it will give you a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see artefacts and specimens from the expedition on display together in Britain for the first time (above). It is also a great opportunity to take on board the facts around the 1910-1913 Terra Nova expedition and to glean something of the heroic natures of the men who went out on that terrible journey, a journey embedded in the national psyche.
Scott films: Glimpse the shell-shocked-looking Apsley Cherry-Garrard (left) and the ordeal of the 'worst journey in the world' to Cape Crozier in 1911 to collect Emperor penguin eggs (right) in our online video or in the exhibition cinema.
Specimens on display include one of the three Emperor penguin eggs collected by Dr Edward Wilson, Henry Bowers and Apsley Cherry-Garrard (above left) during the permanent darkness of the Antarctic winter, which were donated to the Museum by Cherry-Garrard on his return to Britain. The eggs were collected under horrendous conditions at Cape Crozier and you can find out about the renowned worst journey in the world in our film.
Famously, Scott, Wilson, Edgar Evans, 'Titus' Oates and Bowers, died in 1912 on the journey back from the expedition's attempt on the South Pole. Remarkably during their failed return from the Pole they had with them 35 kilos of geological and fossil specimens that they had collected and hauled by sledge. Not even when their attempt to get back to base at Cape Evans was obviously doomed did they jettison them to lighten their load. For that reason alone, nevermind their high scientific value, these specimens have a powerful legacy and you can see some of them in the exhibition (above).
Many of the contemporary family relatives of the original Polar Party attended the royal opening of the exhibition and it was a great honour to have them present. Prior to the event I had the privilege of talking with Petty Officer Edgar Evans’ grandson John Evans, who sadly was unable to be present on the night. And at the exhibition opening I had my hand held by Lady Kennet, the daughter by her second husband of Kathleen, Robert Falcon Scott’s wife. She and her own daughter were intently studying a large photograph of the expedition party at the time. Although it is 100 years since the Southern Party members died on their way back from the Pole, that felt like history very close up.
One member of the family relatives who definitely couldn't attend the opening was Scott's only grandson, Falcon, but for good reason. Falcon is currently in Antarctica to help preserve the Cape Evans hut of the Terra Nova expedition. You can see a film of him entering his grandfather's hut for the very first time here and read about his reactions in our Antarctic conservation blog.
Back on the menu this Friday is the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2011 exhibition - now very much sold out. And for those of you who have been missing it, our much loved Central Hall pop-up restaurant in the Blue Bar, returns (above). Here you can indulge any cravings for seasonal comfort food under the shadow of the glowing Diplodocus. If you just want to get a drink, then we have two main bar areas - the Gold Bar, just past the Blue Bar, and the Red Bar in Fossil Way.
As usual, there’ll be live jazz and this Friday's special Scott-related event promising a lively discussion on the question Do we naturally need heroes?. Come and join two key speakers, Meredith Hooper and Andrew Morton, to talk about the nature of celebrity and how things have changed since Scott’s death raised him to heroic status.
It's also a good time to visit both our exhibition shops and the main Museum shop.