Scott’s negatives are of outstanding importance to the United Kingdom’s heritage and the opportunity to keep the collection intact - and in this country - cannot be lost.
Sir Ranulph Fiennes
The Polar Museum needs to raise £275,000 in less than a month to avoid the prospect of the 113 photographic negatives being sold off at auction. The negatives represent an extraordinary visual record of Scott’s last expedition, but are in danger of being sold abroad.
The negatives have been recently rediscovered, having been thought lost. This is the only chance a museum in the United Kingdom has of acquiring this extraordinary visual record of Scott’s last, heroic expedition. The Museum has no budget for acquisitions and is entirely reliant on public support.
Sir Ranulph Fiennes, who is spearheading the Cambridge fundraising campaign, said: “Scott’s negatives are of outstanding importance to the United Kingdom’s heritage and the opportunity to keep the collection intact - and in this country - cannot be lost.
“This is the only chance a museum in the United Kingdom will have to purchase the actual negatives taken by Scott on his final expedition. We must raise the funds by March 2 so that they can take their rightful place in Cambridge alongside the camera on which they were taken as well as the remaining Scott and Herbert Ponting prints - all of which speak so powerfully to us of the courage and sacrifice of those on the British Antarctic Expedition.”
The negatives are a record of Scott’s earliest attempts - under the guidance of expedition photographer Herbert Ponting - through to his unparalleled images of his team on the Southern Journey. The force, control and beauty of his portraits and landscapes number them among some of the finest early images of the Antarctic.
Julian Dowdeswell, Director of the Scott Polar Research Institute, said: “Beyond the quality of the images, the negatives offer something unprecedented. Scott’s death and their subsequent loss of the negatives, have meant that his photographic experiments and errors have been preserved along with his successes. They give us a record of a talented student of photography moving from apprenticeship to mastery. The best of the negatives are serious artistic achievements in their own right; the collection as a whole is a remarkable record of artistic development, quite apart from being of value to the national heritage.”
The Polar Museum is already home to the remaining prints of Scott's photographs, Herbert Ponting’s glass plate negatives and Ponting’s presentation album from the same expedition. Added to that are the prints and albums of all the other expedition members equipped with a camera. Together, they form the most comprehensive photographic record of the expedition held anywhere in the world.
Heather Lane, Keeper of Collections, said: “Although the Institute holds prints of a number of these photographs, acquiring the negatives is akin to holding the manuscript of, say, Apsley Cherry Garrard’s account of the expedition, compared with the published work, The Worst Journey in the World. They take us right back to the point of origin, a fact made all the more exciting given that the Institute also holds the camera on which they were taken. Furthermore, nine images from this set of negatives have hitherto been unknown and will be of major value for research.
“This is the only opportunity that the Scott Polar Research Institute may ever have to acquire this material, which is of extraordinary significance to the UK’s polar heritage. The negatives would complete the Museum’s visual record of Scott’s last expedition and will be of incomparable value for research.”