Curator Deirdre Mitchell has finished the redisplay of the Carr Maritime Gallery

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Deirdre working to redisplay the Carr Maritime Gallery
Deirdre working to redisplay the Carr Maritime Gallery

It’s been a short month, but a very busy one here at South Georgia Museum. For me the slightly quieter ship schedule has given me the chance to tackle one of my biggest tasks for this season – the re-display of the museum’s Carr Maritime Gallery. Even with fewer cruise ships in, it has certainly been a challenge to plan for this but it has also been very rewarding. I have particularly enjoyed having the opportunity to tackle such a big project, picking up many new skills along the way – including how to use photoshop and operate power tools! The gallery has always focussed very specifically on the maritime history of the island and we wanted to continue that theme. We decided it would be interesting to shine a spotlight on some of Grytviken’s famous ships, many of which form part of the skyline of the whaling station. The new display also looks at some broader maritime themes, from how the men who worked here maintained their ships to how they navigated safely around South Georgia’s dangerous coastline. One of my first tasks was to decide what objects to include in the new display. Many of the artefacts already in the gallery fitted in nicely to the new display but we have also had several new items added to the collection recently which we were very keen to include. My favourite of these is a watercolour painting of Albatros and Dias by artist David Smith. I love the vibrant colours he has used to depict the two catchers, and the perspective – from above – is also quite unusual. [photo] Once I had selected the objects, I then had the fun job of planning the layout and creating panels for the new displays. Researching each ship, theme and related objects was incredibly interesting, and I often got more than a little side-tracked chasing down an interesting fact. (The Admiralty Manual of Seamanship was particularly distracting and as a result I now know a lot about life jacket specifications!)

The Albatros and Dias section of the new display
The Albatros and Dias section of the new display

With the layout planned and the panels ready, I set about installing the new display. Installing some of the objects was very straightforward, but some of the others presented their own unique challenges. One of the trickiest items was the diving pump which had to be moved from the museum’s Allardyce Room across to the Carr Maritime Gallery. It’s a fairly heavy piece of equipment and there was no hope of me moving it myself, but thankfully I was able to enlist the help of 5 ‘ratties’ (members of the Rat Eradication Team) who did a magnificent job of not only moving the pump, but moving it incredibly carefully – my curatorial nerves were very grateful! The ratties weren’t the only ones to lend a hand though. The Government builders were also hugely helpful, repainting the gallery so that it looks as good as new and answering lots of silly questions about what types of screws and wall-plugs to use!

The reopening event
The reopening event

With the new display finished, we held an official re-opening of the gallery on 13th March. Happily this coincided with the visit of one of the Royal Navy ships so we could invite some of them and all the locals to help us celebrate. To go along with the nautical theme we served rum and ginger beer - a cocktail known as a ‘Dark and Stormy’. There were a couple of short speeches telling the history of the gallery and the thoughts behind the redisplay, and an opportunity to thank the many people without whose help it could not have been achieved. So, that’s one big task ticked off the list, but I won’t be putting my feet up just yet! There’s still some deep cleaning to do, a spot of accessioning to finish and a few displays to tweak – I think the next 4 weeks will also be very busy!