The Polar Muse

The Polar Muse aims to harness the power of poetry to do what conventional museum interpretation can’t do: to engage with objects imaginatively, going beyond the handful of facts you can fit on a caption. Eight of Cambridge’s most exciting and innovative poets have been commissioned to select an object from the collection as inspiration for a new poem, and given access to the full breadth of the Scott Polar Research Institute’s library and archive resources to conduct research. Their poems will be presented on the glass of the display cases, in front of the object about which they are written, as both an added layer of curation and interpretation, and a new creation in their own right.




The Polar Muse
- Poetry as curation at The Polar Museum

24th September - 28th February 2015

Opening Times:
Tuesday - Saturday, 10am - 4pm
open Bank Holiday Mondays

Admission is free

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Blog post by Redell Olsen

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A further blog - ii) Whiteout Film for Snow-Goggles (Landscapes) — by Redell Olsen (6th November 2014)

The one object, or substance that is convincingly absent from the Polar Museum is snow.

In Apsley Cherry-Garrard's, The Worst Journey in the World he describes how descriptions of the weather, and in particular of the snow itself, come to dominate the accounts made by Scott and his party of their ill fated final expedition.

Scott laid his One and a half Degree Depot (i.e. 1 ½ ˚ or 90 miles from the Pole on January 10. That day they started to go down, but for several days before that the plateau had been pretty flat. Time after time in the diaries you find crystals—crystals: crystals falling through the air, crystals bearding the sastrugi, crystals lying loose upon the snow. Sandy crystals, upon which the sun shines and which made pulling a terrible effort: when the sky clouds over they get along much better. The clouds form and disperse without visible reason. And generally the wind is in their faces.

(Apsley Cherry-Garrard, The Worst Journey in the World p. 183).

In 'Whiteout Film for Snow-Goggles (Landscapes)' the elements of the poem are arranged in couplets; potentially crystallographic formations of small numbers of words that could be regarded as miniature landscapes; landscapes with a horizon line that separates the 'lower' vocabularies of snow and ice from the 'upper' words used to describe the weather phenomena in the sky.

The vocabulary of the poem is drawn from Silas: The Antarctic Diaries and Memoir of Charles. S. Wright (1993) and Field Guide to Snow Crystals by Edward R. La Chapelle (2001). Wright was the physicist and glaciologist on Scott's last expedition and in more recent years Chapelle pioneered the study and prediction of avalanches through his extensive taxonomy and readings of different types of snow. In both books what comes across is the dynamic metamorphic potential of snow that continues to change its structure even after it has fallen.


The destructive metamorphism of a stellar snow crystal. From: A Field Guide to Snow Crystals by Edward La Chapelle.