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Antarctic conservation

1 Post tagged with the christmas_card tag

Stormy Greetings

Posted by Conservators Jun 15, 2012

Author: Georgina

Date: 6 June 2012

Temperature: -32C

Wind speed: 26 knots

Temp with wind chill: -49C

Sunrise: N/A

Sunset: N/A


Amongst this season’s artefacts from Scott’s Terra Nova hut at Cape Evans are some commercially produced Christmas cards. Unfortunately, most of these are unused, so it seems they were brought along on the expedition but were never signed and given out.

card btat 1.jpg

Two Christmas cards before and after treatment © AHT/Georgina


Two of the cards, as seen here in the photos, were in very poor condition, with heavy wrinkling and ingrained surface dirt. When the cards were separated and opened, it turned out that one contains handwriting, and had been inscribed from ‘Your Mother, Xmas 1910’.

Card image 2.jpg

Detail showing handwritten inscription © AHT/Georgina


The Terra Nova expedition had set sail from Cardiff, Wales on 15 June 1910; so one imagines that one of the men’s mothers had written them the card before departure, probably with instructions not to open until Christmas day. In the event, a rather uncomfortable Christmas that year was spent on the ship. Still suffering damage from a serious storm at the beginning of the month, the SS Terra Nova had met and been halted by the southern pack ice on 10 December and was unable to break clear for the next 20 days. The delay, which Scott attributed to "sheer bad luck", had consumed 61 tons of coal, whilst the storm had lost 2 ponies, a dog and numerous stores.

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The SS Terra Nova halted by pack ice, photograhed in December 1910 by Herbert Ponting


After cleaning and separating the cards, they were washed in water, and an alkaline buffer imparted to neutralise the natural acids occurring in the paper.  After drying, the paper was humidified and the creases gently eased out before pressing.  Afterwards, the paper and card layers were lined from behind with thin Japanese tissue, whilst all lacunae (holes) were filled in with acid-free paper repair patches toned with acrylic paint to closely match surrounding areas.