Communicating Polar research and exploration to a wide audience

Camp under the Wild Mountains, Beardmore Glacier, 20 December 1911, part of a collection taken by Captain Scott (credit: SPRI P2012/5/109)

The Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI) Polar Museum is the UK’s only museum dedicated to the Arctic and Antarctic.

The Museum displays communicate the multidisciplinary climatic, social and cultural research at SPRI to general, non-specialist audiences and with international reach.

For example, the Museum shows the public how research is deepening understanding of environmental problems such as climate change and global sea-level rise.

SPRI’s Archive and Picture Library of around 100,000 images is a unique resource for research, representing the most comprehensive documentary and photographic collection in the world on British polar exploration, and its holdings have been integrated closely with evolving museum displays.

One exemple of the underpinning research projected through the Polar Museum is that of Julian Dowdeswell, Director of SPRI and the Polar Museum, who has undertaken eight cruises on the UK ice-strengthened research vessel James Clark Ross. Much of this work, and that of 200 other scientists from 20 countries, has been brought together in a definitive volume that is the standard reference for both academics and industry.

Innovative new programmes since August 2013 have engaged new audiences, focused on outreach to schools and encouraged audiences to understand climate change in new ways. As part of this, the Polar Museum’s Education and Outreach team routinely work with a range of under-represented audiences to share SPRI research with people of all ages and backgrounds.

School visits are a major element of learning provision: 14,200 pupils attended workshops taught by Museum staff, a further 8,300 have taken part in teacher-led workshops, and nearly 7,000 pupils have accessed Museum handling collections in their schools since the introduction of this outreach activity in 2015.

“Thank you for our first class visit. The children loved the day and they came back with a lot of new knowledge.”

– Key Stage 1 teacher