Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Antarctic conservation matters

The heritage of Antarctic exploration is one of my passions. At ICS we have been deeply involved in the Antarctic Heritage Trust of New Zealand’s program conserving the some 15,000 artefacts that still remain in the four historic huts and various other structures in the NZ Antarctic Territory that survive from the Heroic Era of Exploration (1899 to 1916).

The project has had so many different facets from the process of writing conservation and implementation plans, to resolving logistics and finding conservators who are willing to spend six months in an Antarctic winter, most of it in 24 hour darkness. We are now into our sixth winter of conservators working at Scott Base conserving artefacts in the purpose built lab, and alongside that six summer seasons of conservators working out in the field at the historic huts.

The exposure that this conservation work has had has been fantastic for the profession – it has been referred to as ‘the most exciting conservation project in the world’. And that has been helped by some good publicity.

Primarily this has been through what must be one of the conservation profession’s longest running blogs hosted by the Natural History Museum in London. It is well worth trawling back through the last six years to see some real gems of postings.

More recently, last summer season Ben Fogle and a team from the BBC spent two weeks at Scott’s Hut at Cape Evans filming conservators in action, the resulting documentary being screened on prime time UK tv a couple of weeks ago. Again it is great to see conservators as the focus of the story. You can watch it here

2012 is shaping up to be a big year for Antarctic exploration aficionados. It is after all the year that Douglas Mawson’s Australasian Antarctic Expedition landed in Commonwealth Bay (January 7th), Amundsen (having reached the South Pole in December 1911) announced his success from the steps of Hobart Post Office on March 9th, and Scott, having also reached the Pole, died on the return trip about March 28th 1912. I am busily organizing a meeting of the ICOMOS International Polar Heritage Committee for March next year in Hobart, during which we intend to re-enact Amundsen’s announcement.

And finally to commemorate the centenary of Scott’s expedition the Natural History Museum, London, the Canterbury Museum, Christchurch and the Antarctic Heritage Trust have collaborated to create an international travelling exhibition that will open at the Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney in mid June 2011. It will include a stylised representation of Scott's expedition hut at Cape Evans as per below. Check it out here.

Julian Bickersteth
Managing Director

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