Antarctic Collections in the UK

Perhaps you have a school project on the Heroic Era to complete, or you have been lucky enough to visit this most special place on earth and it has inspired you to dig further into its rich history.  Whatever your reason, there will be something of interest for you right here in the UK.

There are many museums and collections up and down the country that hold important artefacts, images or accounts of human interactions with the very last wilderness on earth.  We hope this list will help you with your research and inspire you to go out and experience some of the wonder of Antarctica for yourself. If you come across any other collections which we can add to this list please let us know by emailing info@ukaht.org.

Athy Heritage Centre and Museum

Focusing on the history of Athy, one of Ireland’s designated heritage towns, the Athy Heritage Centre-Museum has the only permanent exhibitions devoted to local Polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton. The museum houses an original sledge and harness from one of Shackleton's expeditions as well as a fifteen-foot model of the Endurance. The, the Heritage Centre hosts an annual Ernest Shackleton Autumn School over the October bank holiday weekend.

Bute Museum

The Bute Museum is an independently-run museum which focuses on the Natural and Historical Heritage of the Isle of Bute in Scotland. Birdie Bowers, who accompanied Scott to the South Pole in 1912 and died on the return march, spent his leave with his mother and sister who lived on Bute. The museum houses a small collection of Bowers' memorabilia including an original photograph and a memorial.

 

Captain Cook Birthplace Museum

A museum based close to the birthplace of Captain Cook, the discoverer of Antarctica. The museum has several galleries which are dedicated to telling the story of Cook and his expeditions. 

Captain Cook Memorial Museum

This museum is dedicated to Captain Cook, the discoverer of Antarctica. the museum based in the historic building in Whitby where Cook served his apprenticeship. 

Captain Cook Schoolroom Museum

The Captain Cook Schoolroom Museum tells the story of Cook’s early life and education, as well as his adventures on the high seas. 

Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum / The Wilson

The Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum is home to a range of art and historical collections including a small gallery and collection of Edward Wilson. Wilson, who was born in Cheltenham, accompanied Captain Scott on his Discovery Expedition of 1901-04 and his Terra Nova Expedition of 1910-13, where he perished alongside Scott. The collection includes paintings, photographs and specimens collected by Wilson whilst in the Antarctic, as well as some of the equipment he used.

 

DHT Discovery Point, Dundee Heritage Trust

The Dundee Heritage Trust is a charity formed to preserve and interpret Dundee’s industrial past. It is responsible for Discovery Point Antarctic Museum, based on the RRS Discovery, which was built in Dundee specifically for Polar scientific research for Scott’s British National Antarctic (Discovery) Expedition of 1901-04. Visit the website to learn more about Scott’s Discovery expedition and take a virtual tour of the RRS Discovery.

 

Gilbert White and The Oates Collection

The Oates Collection focuses on the lives of two members of the Oates family, including Captain Lawrence Oates who accompanied Scott to the South Pole and died on the return journey. Galleries tell the story of his early life as well as the story of Scott’s Terra Nova expedition, and include numerous artefacts, photographs and documents from the expedition. 

Hampshire Archives, Record Office

The Hampshire Record Office houses a collection of George Marston’s correspondence, including letters, telegrams and postcards from or about the Shackleton family. Marston was an artist who accompanied Shackleton on his 1907 and 1914 expeditions to Antarctica.

 

Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum in London holds an extensive collection of items, including many of the manuscripts, original reports and field notebooks from Scott’s Discovery Expedition, Wilson’s sketches from the Expedition, and the scientific specimens collected during the Terra Nova Expedition. 

National Library of Scotland

The National Library of Scotland houses various Antarctic books and paper items, including the James Wordie collection which relates to the Colonial Office’s Discovery Committee. It also holds a copy of the Aurora Australisthe first book written, illustrated, printed, bound and issued in the Antarctic, as well as trade cards, menus and lecture programs and a copy of the very rare catalogue of the books of the 'Discovery' which lists the shipboard library of Scott's 'Discovery,' as well as four volumes of press cuttings relating to Shackleton. 

National Maritime Museum

The National Maritime Museum is the world’s largest maritime museum. It houses an extensive range of objects relating to Antarctica’s history and exploration, including the first known painting of Antarctica from Captain Cook’s voyage and items relating to the Heroic Age of Antarctic exploration.

National Museum of Scotland

The National Museum of Scotland incorporates several museums in Scotland which preserve and present a wide range of objects. The collections include specimens collected during the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition of 1902-03, including bird eggs and fish.

 

National Museum of Wales

Incorporating several museums in Wales; the National Museum of Wales houses items relating to the Welsh history of Antarctic exploration including items relating to Scott’s Terra Nova expedition. 

Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery

Plymouth City Museum explores the story of Plymouth as well as housing a range of other objects. The collection features Antarctic materials relating to two crew members who sailed with Plymouth-born explorer Captain Robert Scott. Items belonging to Patrick Keohane (Terra Nova Expedition 1910-1913) and Fred Dailey (Discovery Expedition 1901-04) include a photograph album with pictures of everyday life on the expedition. They also have medals, Dailey’s letter of appointment, a model of the Terra Nova made by Keohane, and a set of Scott’s skis given to him by Keohane.

 

Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers - RGS with IBG

The RGS (with IBG) is a charity dedicated to the development and promotion of geographical knowledge. As well as housing a range of charts, reports and journals relating to several Antarctic expeditions, the RGS hosts events and exhibitions on Antarctic history and exploration, most recently the Enduring Eye exhibition to commemorate the centenary of Shackleton’s Endurance expedition. The RGS website allows you to search their picture library, and includes images from several Antarctic expeditions. 

Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI)

The Scott Polar Research Institute, part of the University of Cambridge, is a centre of excellence in the study of the Arctic and Antarctic, with research covering both the natural and social sciences. It also houses the world’s premier Polar library as well as an archive collection. The Scott Polar Research Institute also manages a Polar Museum which houses a range of objects relating to the history of the polar regions as well as an extensive photograph collection. The museum runs a range of public events, lectures and exhibitions. Their website includes a comprehensive library of photographs taken during expeditions dating from 1845-1960.

The Science Museum

The Science Museum focuses on science, technology and medical achievements in its collections. Items include an Antarctic ice core and ice core drill, and medical kits from Scott’s Terra Nova Expedition, Shackleton’s Nimord Expedition and several later expeditions. 

Tewkesbury Borough Museum

Tewkesbury Borough Museum is a community museum dedicated to protecting and displaying the heritage of the town. Their displays include an exhibit on local man Raymond Edward Pristley, who joined both Shackleton’s 1907 Expedition and Scott’s 1910 Terra Nova Expedition to Antarctica.

 

Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A)

The V&A is the world’s leading museum of art and design, and houses several photographs taken by Herbert Ponting, the official photographer on Scott’s Terra Nova Expedition. 

Subscribe to our newsletter

Submit

Press Enquiries

We are very keen to promote the important heritage work that we do, telling the story of life in Antarctica both past and present. If you are interested in running a story about us, using our images or films or want to discuss an interview or potential collaboration opportunity we would love to hear from you.  Please contact either Sarah or Lewis at Limewash to discuss your requirements sarah@limewash.co.uk or +44 (0)1223 813 557.