Monday, February 7, 2011

£100,000 hope as Polar Museum melts hearts

Scott Polar Research Institute
Suzan Uzel

A Cambridge University museum is in the running for a £100,000 arts prize.
The Polar Museum at Cambridge University’s Scott Polar Research Institute is one of 10 hopefuls for this year’s £100,000 Art Fund Prize – the UK’s largest arts prize.
Home to the last letters of Captain Scott and his companions, the Polar Museum re-opened last June following a £1.75 million redevelopment, made possible by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
In the six months after, visitor numbers tripled.
Captain Oates’s sleeping bag and the iconic Antarctic photographs of Herbert Ponting are displayed alongside exhibits on Arctic peoples and British attempts on the Northwest Passage and the North Pole.
The Ice and Climate gallery examines how science is undertaken in the extreme conditions of the polar regions.
The Art Fund Prize 2011 rewards excellence and innovation in museums and galleries in the UK for a project completed or undertaken in 2010.
A shortlist of four museums will be announced on May 19 and the £100,000 cash prize will be awarded to the “Museum of the Year” on June 15.
This year’s panel of judges is chaired this year by Michael Portillo, who announced the long list on Thursday night on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row.
Heather Lane, keeper of collections at The Polar Museum, said: “We are absolutely delighted to hear that we have been long-listed.
“It means a great deal to the very small team here which has worked so hard over the past three years to reinvigorate  the Polar Museum and make its stories of exploration and science relevant to today’s audience.
“Since we reopened, we have been overwhelmed by the public’s response to the new museum.
“It gives us great pleasure to see so many people sharing our own sense of excitement about polar history and learning about the importance of the polar regions in the global environment.
“After decades of being known as a specialist collection with little focus on the general visitor feedback from the public on the redeveloped museum has been overwhelmingly positive.”

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