University of Cambridge Museums

Projects, events and news from the University of Cambridge Museums

Sewing Arctic Research

Antarctica map

Two years ago the Polar Museum worked with the artist Jenny Langley to stitch Antarctica.

The textile map was an immediate hit with audiences. Flaps revealed strange ice fish, hidden icebergs, seven-pointed starfish and hairy crabs. You could delve into the depths of the subglacial Lake Vostock and explore lava tunnels under active volcanoes. The map has been used for adults with visual impairments, children with special educational needs, writers, mapmakers, crafters and storytellers.

How do you follow on from an amazing project like this? You head north and start sewing the Arctic of course!

Again, we worked with research staff here at the Scott Polar Research Institute to pool ideas for what to depict on the map.

We repeated the wonderful evening where staff and volunteers met up to drink wine and add their stitches to the map whilst talking polar research, amongst other matters.

Some of our new students were somewhat bemused by being invited to sew their research but with the offer of wine and Jenny’s expert help they were willing to have a go…

PhD students studying outlet glaciers in Greenland, manipulate threads to make the crevassed surface of the retreating Jakobshavn Glacier. There was much debate as to how the glacier should be best positioned in relation to the sea to show the retreat as accurately as possible.

Squashed mosquitoes stitched over an image of trees, depicting some of the problems our researchers encounter in the Arctic.

Another PhD student stitches his research, which focuses on meltwater streams flowing into a meltwater lake in Greenland.

A polar bear cave, big enough to shelter a mother and her cub. Stitches added by our PhD student studying polar bears.

Jenny is now in the process of piecing the quilt together. We are expecting to take delivery in mid March. Photos of the finished map will be shared soon!

Naomi Chapman, Education and Outreach, Polar Museum, Scott Polar Research Institute

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