The Polar Museum
The Polar Museum
Scott Polar Research Institute
Education & Outreach Officer
The Scott Polar Research Institute was established in 1920 by Frank Debenham as a memorial to Scott and his companions. Debenham was a geologist on Captain Scott’s British Antarctic (Terra Nova) Expedition 1910-13. He had the idea of establishing a research centre as a fitting tribute to the national hero and to ensure that Scott’s pioneering scientific work would continue.
Located in a Grade 2 listed building dating from 1934, the Institute developed as a centre for polar explorers to share information, leading to the deposit of the Polar Museum's core collections.
In 2010 the renovated Polar Museum opened its doors to the public. It now displays more of its collections than before, offering visitors the chance to experience the story of Earth’s coldest, driest, highest and deadliest places.
The new displays are based on the theme of exploration into science, emphasising both the history of exploration of the Arctic and Antarctic and the wider environmental significance of the poles in a changing world.
Art and artefacts from the people who call the Arctic home are displayed alongside the last letters of Captain Scott and iconic Antarctic photographs by Herbert Ponting. A series of exhibits shows how science is undertaken in the harsh conditions of the polar regions.
As well as these permanent exhibits, the Museum regularly hosts special exhibitions and shows of modern polar art. A great range of polar-related material, including books, toys and posters, is available from the Museum Shop and may also be ordered online. The Institute has an active Friends organisation and welcomes volunteers.
Museum, Library, Archive, Gallery
Museum opening times: 1000-1600pm (Tues to Sat), except some public and university holidays, and occasional other days, e.g. Bank Holiday weekends, between Christmas and New Year.
The Polar Museum welcomes school and other groups of all ages - please book in advance. Please note that the museum is small and we therefore ask that you limit groups to 24.
The Museum is closed Sun-Mon.
Our library and archives are open to the public by appointment.
We have been shortlisted for a European Museum of the Year Award 2012.
The Museum holds an unrivalled collection of artifacts, paintings, drawings, photographs (including cinematographic film, lantern slides, and Daguerreotypes), and other material relating to polar exploration, history and science.
The museum displays feature items from Scott's last expedition, including farewell letters to friends and family, diaries, the sleeping bag of Captain Oates, and the black flag left by Amundsen. The museum also houses displays on Arctic and Antarctic expeditions, scientific instruments and equipment from the 'heroic age' of exploration, the sledges and skis used by Scott, Shackleton and other explorers, geological specimens, modern exploration equipment and clothing, polar artworks and an example of an Emperor penguin.
Items not on display may be viewed by prior arrangement.
Archives, Coins and Medals, Costume and Textiles, Film and Media, Land Transport, Maritime, Natural Sciences, Personalities, Photography, Science and Technology, Social History
Key artists and exhibits
- Captain Robert Falcon Scott
- Captain Lawrence Oates
- Roald Amundsen
- Sir Ernest Shackleton
- British Graham Land Expedition
- Northwest Passage
- Sir John Franklin
- Sledges and skis
- Modern exploration equipment and clothing
- Emperor penguin
- North Pole
- South Pole
Delivery by Design: Stamps in Antarctica
- 12 June — 6 September 2014 *on now
These stamps highlight Antarctic flora and fauna, and commemorate many of the British expeditions that have undertaken Antarctic exploration and science. This exhibition explores the history of stamps from the British Antarctic Territory, drawing from the Scott Polar Research Institute's archives and highlights the recent gift of stamps, printing proofs and original artworks made by Crown Agents to the Scott Polar Research Institute with the kind assistance of the Polar Regions Unit, Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
- Any age
Reinventing the Wheel: Bicycles in the Polar Regions
- 1 July — 6 September 2014 *on now
To celebrate the arrival of the Tour de France in Cambridge The Polar Museum presents a small exhibition looking at the surprising history of bicycles in the Arctic and Antarctic. The display will examine the role bicycles and bicycle wheels have played in the exploration of the Poles, both as indispensable tools and as items of fun.
The Polar Museum is open Tuesday – Saturday 10am – 4pm. It will also be open on Saturday 5 & Sunday 6 July for special family activity days.
- Any age