ROYAL MUSEUMS GREENWICH OPENS FOUR NEW GALLERIES COVERING 500 YEARS OF HUMAN ENDEAVOUR AND EXPLORATION
On 20 September 2018, Royal Museums Greenwich (RMG) will open four new permanent galleries following a major £12.6M redevelopment project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) through The National Lottery (4.6M). With over 1,100 objects going on display, the galleries based in the National Maritime Museum (NMM) will bring the theme of exploration alive, giving visitors unprecedented access to its world-class collections and responding to the public’s growing fascination with Britain’s maritime heritage.
The four new galleries – Tudor and Stuart Seafarers, Pacific Encounters, Polar Worlds and Sea Things – cover British and European exploration from the late-fifteenth century through to the present day. Through recurring themes of encounter, legacy, science, trade, exploitation and power, visitors will delve into the complex story of Britain’s exploration of the world, examining how men and women ventured beyond the nation’s shores to explore the ends of the Earth in a quest for knowledge, riches and adventure. Furthermore, the galleries will highlight how Britain’s relationship with the sea and its growing maritime power and ambitions shaped the country and impacted the world we live in today.
Designed by Casson Mann, the visually enticing and object-rich galleries offer a welcoming environment for both new and existing visitors to engage with and contemplate significant moments of Britain’s maritime past. The redevelopment project sees 1,000m2 of space in the Museum’s East Wing, previously closed to visitors, converted to public use. The transformation has provided the NMM with an additional 40 per cent of permanent gallery space, allowing the Museum to substantially expand the breadth of its public offering.
Working in consultation with the Museum’s wide network of community groups, each gallery presents multiple perspectives on Britain’s maritime legacy, connecting past events with the contemporary world and adding a deeper insight into the Museum’s collection. Visitors of all ages will be inspired to question and reflect on what they have learned, whilst going on their own personal voyage of exploration and discovery.
Polar Worlds explores British endeavours in the Arctic and Antarctic within a wider world-view of collaborative scientific investigation, cultural encounter, international economies, and national political rivalries. It examines the major British polar expeditions of the past 250 years, whilst shining a spotlight on the contemporary and changing significance of the Arctic and Antarctic regions today.
The gallery introduces visitors to the geography, environment and histories of the Arctic and Antarctica through their similarities and differences, the people and wildlife that live there, as well as the numerous expeditions and pioneers who risked their lives to explore them. With Arctic exploration in the North end of the gallery, and Antarctic exploration in the South side, the central display brings both polar regions together, examining their political, cultural and environmental status in the world today, and considering what the future may hold for these important places.
The display will use the Museum’s outstanding collection to bring polar exploration to life, with objects such as a large steel ice saw, suspended from the gallery ceiling giving an example of the vital equipment needed by explorers to tackle the seemingly impenetrable terrain. Through the stories of heroic explorers including Scott and Shackleton, visitors will see even the most experienced of explorers being pushed to the extremes of human endurance, whilst examples of expedition clothing and food supplies accompanied by extracts from explorers’ diaries help to tell the moving human story behind these historic expeditions.
The contemporary Arctic and Antarctic regions are united in the centre of the gallery, with exhibits looking at the shifting significance of both regions today, encouraging visitors to reflect on several contemporary issues facing these regions, such as tourism, territorial claims and resource exploitation and asks what the future will look like for the world’s most remote locations.