Curators Blog – 8/11/07

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Three weeks into our 6 months stay and things are incredibly busy here at South Georgia Museum. Everyone is settling in well and the arrival of our first two cruise ships, the Nordnorge and Ushiaia, proved to be a great success. The arrival of the Ushuaia was particularly good as both Tim and Pauline Carr were onboard as expedition leaders. It was wonderful having the opportunity to meet them and discuss the Museum; it’s future and their experiences here. While the ships are in I spend all my time front of house chatting to visitors and answering questions. As well as making their experience more enjoyable it also helps as an evaluation tool to find out exactly what people like about the Museum and what brought them to South Georgia.

Looking out the window across Cumberland Bay I still can’t quite believe that I’m actually here in South Georgia. You can read all the books and see all the photographs beforehand but nothing quite prepares you for the overwhelming beauty of this Antarctic Isle. There are currently a group of King Penguins who have taken up residence just in front of the Museum and it’s a real joy to watch them going about their daily routine whilst having our lunch.

The Museum Assistants John and Sarah are doing a sterling job of getting the Museum ready for the busy summer ahead. Yesterday they started preparing the church porch for a fresh coat of paint as well as beginning a deep clean of the exhibition rooms and cleaning of artefacts. Along with Miriam, the Shop Manager, they have also been processing and re-displaying new stock for the shop. John has particularly good joinery skills which have already proved to be most useful and Sarah has a good eye for displays so her work in the shop will hopefully lead to increased sales.

John and Miriam preparing the church for painting
John and Miriam preparing the church for painting

I have been spending my time getting up to speed with the collections management system and looking at ways of taking this forward. As a lover of Maritime history this is a most enjoyable pursuit and is a great way to get to know the collection and the history of the Museum. I have found the collections to be of a very high quality and in particularly good condition considering the weather here. The environmental conditions within the Museum are surprisingly good; the temperature does not tend to fluctuate too much which is ideal for safe storage of a range of artefacts. We are very grateful to Pat Lurcock, who gave us a tour of the whaling station in our second week. This really helped to provide context to the artefacts and highlighted a little more about what it would really have been like to live and work on the island. There are a couple of new acquisitions which I will process in the coming week including a photo album recording the S.S. Norhval Whaling Expedition, 1946-47 which was kindly donated by Mrs Barbara Ross, Fife.

I am looking forward to getting stuck into the new Carr Maritime Gallery display which should begin in late November following some minor building work. Tim and Pauline Carr were very happy to hear that the gallery will be named after them and were keen to help in any way they can. Preparing for the new exhibition will include building a cradle for the bow of Alert a survey launch vessel used during the Discovery Investigations.

Living with the British Antarctic Survey team at their King Edward Point base is proving to be excellent. They are a really good bunch of people, the accommodation is great and the food is outstanding! There was a barbeque for the arrival of the James Clark Ross on my first cooking shift so I haven’t actually had to make anything yet. I better get my cookery books out as the standard is so high I will have to do a lot to impress. The place is pretty noisy at the moment as there is an Elephant seal breeding ground just outside the window. The fur seals are now also starting to arrive, they are very cute but also very snappy so you’ve got to watch out when passing the tussock.

And so ends my first Curator’s blog. Next week Shop Manager Miriam Iorwerth will be logging her thoughts here on the Latest News page.

Elsa Davidson