Projects, events and news from the University of Cambridge Museums
Inspired by the success of Portals to the World at the Fitzwilliam Museum, when Jo Holland (Outreach & Access Officer at the Fitzwilliam Museum) asked if any other museums would like to be involved we at The Polar Museum jumped at the chance!
Portals to the World was initially designed as an art appreciation course specifically for people living with dementia at home and their care givers. Each week the group would gather in one of the galleries for a short talk by a member of staff from the Fitzwilliam Museum, followed by a handling session or practical art activity where the art created is a tool for reminiscence, as well as an artefact of the course session.
Initially we started by running an alumni session just before Christmas to see how things went… It turned out to be thoroughly enjoyable and we were keen to run more sessions. With the support of Edye Hoffmann from Dementia Compass and Jo Holland, we started planning.
Based on our alumni session and the highly successful framework established by the Fitzwilliam Museum we started to plan. In true Scott Polar Research Institute style we went for anything and everything polar.
Obviously, without an art studio, art appreciation was not going to be the core offer. The activities would all be practical but would have a different emphasis each week.
The next stage was to find willing academics… Stepping back and looking at the whole of the polar offer for Cambridge we decided to work with our polar partners the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and the United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust (UKAHT).
In week one Dr Huw Griffiths from BAS shared some of the amazing deep sea finds from Antarctic waters. We marvelled over incredible specimens including the seven-pointed starfish and a hairy crab. After a well-deserved cuppa and biscuit we had fun thinking up names for some of the newest finds!
The following week, Sophie Rowe, one of our conservators here at The Polar Museum, spoke about the research she had done on our gut parka. We giggled at photos of intestine balloons and gingerly handled freeze dried samples! Afterwards Sophie put us to work. We used conservation sponges to clean a pair of snow shoes. Then, using flour paste and brushes we delicately applied patches to tears in paper.
Week three saw Naomi Boneham, our archivist, sharing some of her favourite documents. We marvelled at letters, newspaper cuttings and diaries. The activity was quickly abandoned as we grilled Naomi about the documents and shared favourite stories and reminiscences.
In the final week, Lisa Avis & Camilla Nichol from UKAHT told us about the Penguin Post Office at Port Lockroy. Afterwards we wrote ourselves postcards which will be taken to the Antarctic, franked at the world’s most southerly post office and then sent back to us just in time for Christmas 2015!
Would we do this again? Absolutely! It was great fun, truth be told we’ve already starting planning the sessions for next year…
Naomi Chapman, Education & Outreach, The Polar Museum, Scott Polar Research Institute