Today, our Scott's Last Expedition exhibiton opened to the public after a week of media coverage and VIP events in the exhbiition gallery, to mark the centenary of Captain Scott reaching the South Pole on 17 January 1912.
Museum mineralogist David Smith and exhibition interpretor Elin Simonsson introduce HRH The Princess Royal to some of the scientific exhibits in Scott's Last Expedition at the VIP launch event on 19 January. The exhibition opened to the public today on 20 January.
Among the VIPs who attended the exhibition's launch party were HRH The Princess Royal (above) who opened the exhibition as its official patron, and Sir David Attenborough (below being greeted by Museum director Dr Mike Dixon).
The VIP guests were still packing out the shop at the end of the evening when the party was officially over, so engrossed were they in our Polar-themed books and merchandise on display.
So what of the exhibition itself? My first impressions on entering the gallery are of the stark contrast of warm-brown domesticity inside the Antarctic base camp wooden hut - the central focus of the exhibition - against the frozen-white surroundings of the unforgiving Antarctic landscape. And how these elements are so beautifully brought to life in the photographs and films of the expedition's photographer, Herbert Ponting.
Above and below: The main exhibition gallery space is designed as a life-size, walk-through representation of the Antarctic hut where Scott's shore party of 25 men lived and worked for the 3 years of the expedition. At its centre is an animated table showing how the hut's own central table was used by the crew members during the years at Cape Evans. Select images to enlarge them.
One of the remarkable things our exhibition really demonstrates is the wealth and quality of visual and scientific records that Scott's Terra Nova team has given us. But then Scott's aim wasn't just to be the first to reach the South Pole on this expedition. He had planned an ambitious scientific programme, and to that end 12 scientists accompanied his expert exploration team, along with the first ever professional photographer to go on an Antarctic expedition, Herbert George Ponting. As a result, the expedition brought back a huge collection of specimens, 40,000 of which are in the Museum's collection, and a rich photographic and cinematic Antarctic archive. Some of the most iconic and treasured of these feature in the exhibition.
Left: Officer Evans dressed for outside, as photographed by Ponting. Right: Herbert Ponting's cinematograph camera, a hand-cranked British Prestwich 35mm cine camera. Ponting was one of the first photographers to capture short video sequences on the ice.
Alongside treasures like the Cape Crozier emperor penguin egg and extracts from Ponting's fascinating film the Great White Silence, you'll frequently be surprised by homelier objects such as Huntley & Palmer expedition biscuits, a gramophone, extracts from Scott's and others' diaries and letters, Pontings cine camera, and of course many items of essential sledging clothing.
Inside the exhibition's hut area, visit Scott's cubicle where, in his prolific writings, he penned much of his famous diary entries and expedition observations.
At the end of the exhibition journey, sit a-while in the cinema space and watch films that explore Scott's scientific legacy to Antarctic research, and find out what's being done today to preserve the Cape Evans hut.
In Antarctica today, Captain Robert Falcon Scott's only grandson, Falcon Scott (above), is helping conserve the Antarctic base camp with a specialist conservation team and you can read about Falcon's visit to the Cape Evans hut in the Antarctic conservation blog.