Scott Polar Research Institute

University of Cambridge achieves its funding goal to secure Captain Scott's Antarctic negatives

Earlier this month we reported on the University of Cambridge's appeal to raise £275,000 before 25 March 2014 in order to secure a hoard of 113 negatives that record Captain RF Scott's earliest photographic experiments in Antarctica. The Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge already holds a significant collection of photographic materials accrued during Captain Scott's Antarctic expedition, but these negatives were seen as an important augmentation of the archive. Today, the University of Cambridge has announced it has successfully raised the necessary funds and the negatives will be joining Herbert Ponting's glass plate negatives and prints, prints made by other members of the expedition, and Scott's prints. In addition to public subscriptions and a grant from the V&A Purchase Grant fund, the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) has just awarded the Scott Polar Research Institute a grant of £233,450, which ensures that all the necessary funds have been raised to prevent an overseas sale of the neagtives.

Pony camp, Camp 15. Ponies (left to right) Snippetts, Nobby, Michael and Jimmy Pigg, Great Ice Barrier, 19 November 1911 “Ponies tethered on the ice beside a man-made ice wall. Sledges in background.” SPRI P2012/5/76

Dame Jenny Abramsky, Chair of the NHMF, said, 'Captain Scott’s images provide us with an extraordinary insight into the rigours of his epic but ultimately doomed expedition. As precious as the corresponding original prints, these negatives record not only day-to-day life in the Antarctic but also the development of Scott’s photographic skills. The National Heritage Memorial Fund - the fund of last resort - is proud to be providing the final part of the funding jigsaw which will ensure these negatives are kept together as part of the Institute’s wider public collection.'

It's intended to mount an exhibition of the images following necessary restoration and a period of research, as well as digitising the material and making it more accessible to a worldwide audience.

University of Cambridge seeks cash to buy Captain Scott's Antarctic negatives

When Captain Scott ventured to the Antarctic on his ill-fated polar expedition in 1911, it wasn't just about racing Roald Amundsen to the South Pole. He was accompanied by a strong scientific team, and Herbert Ponting, the official expedition photographer. Ponting's images of the expedition are well-known, but he also tutored Captain Scott in the use of a camera and several other members of the team had cameras, too. The Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge, which is a sub-department of the University, holds Herbert Ponting’s glass plate negatives and his presentation album from the same expedition, the prints and albums of all the other expedition members equipped with a camera, and the remaining prints of Scott's photographs in its archives. Together, they form the most comprehensive photographic record of the expedition held anywhere in the world.

What the Institute doesn't hold, however, are 113 'lost' negatives of Scott's images. These negatives record his early attempts at photography under Ponting's direction as well as those he took of the team on the Southern Journey. In order to secure the negatives for the archive, the University needs to raise a total of £275,000 before 25 March 2014, after which point they will be sold at auction.

Pony camp, Camp 15. Ponies (left to right) Snippetts, Nobby, Michael and Jimmy Pigg, Great Ice Barrier, 19 November 1911 “Ponies tethered on the ice beside a man-made ice wall. Sledges in background.” SPRI P2012/5/76

The university has already succeeded in raising £75,000, and is asking for donations to reach its £275,000 goal. Explorer Sir Ranulf Fiennes explains why the negatives are regarded as important for the archive: 'The negatives of Scott’s lost photographs are of major significance to the national heritage. Scott’s attainment of the South Pole and his subsequent death captured the public imagination on its discovery in 1913 and continues to exercise an extraordinary fascination. The negatives are a key component of the expedition’s material legacy as an object and as a collection in themselves.'

He speaks at greater length in this video:

Anyone able to make a donation can do so here.