Museum in South Georgia opens virtual door | Polarjournal
The Natural History Museum of South Georgia opens its doors to the public virtually due to COVID and lack of visitors.

If you are heading to South Georgia, you must definitely stop and register in Grytviken. Because the former whaling station is also the administrative center and thus actually the “capital” of the island. A highlight when visiting the place definitely is the museum, which also functions as a souvenir shop and post office. But here, too, the effects of the COVID pandemic are felt, because visitors will be absent this year due to the cancelled Antarctic season. But the administration of the museum seizes the opportunity and now presents itself to the public virtually.

The museum shows itself on its new website fresh and innovative to interested visitors. Great emphasis was placed on simple operation and open display. In addition to the usual aspects such as the history of the museum and the adjacent church, news and information about the museum staff, the website also presents two major innovations: a virtual tour of the museum and an “Object of the Month” service.

During the virtual tour, which is available on the website www.antarctic.eu of Rolf Stange, the entire area of the whaling station and the museum can be walked through. The site uses high-resolution panoramic images by Rolf Stange. This allows the visitor to immerse him- or herself into the exhibitions. Picture: Screenshot of antarctic.eu

For the virtual tour of the museum, the visitor has two options: either via an interactive plan of the museum, where each exhibition room can be clicked on and then leads to a picture gallery of the exhibits contained therein; or via link to the website of Polarguide and photographer Rolf Stange, who takes the visitor on a virtual tour of the museum with his high-resolution panoramic pictures. “We wanted to find a way to enable everyone to metaphorically ‘walk through the doors and see the fantastic and wide-ranging collections,” says Sarah Lurcock, the museum’s director.

The museum exhibits pieces and objects in the various rooms, some of which are unique and bear witness to the eventful history of South Georgia. A special highlight are the exact replica of the James Caird, the dinghy of Shackleton, with which he had sailed to South Georgia, and various equipment of the expedition. Photo: Heiner Kubny

The monthly “Object of the Month” service is also a new aspect that should fascinate fans of the island on the museum website. Each month, a specific object from the museum will be presented and explained in more detail. Particularly interesting is the fact that the website not only shows the exhibited pieces, but also lets you look behind the scenes and presents parts that are normally safely stored in the archive. The museum’s newly appointed curator, Jayne Pierce, is very happy about the new possibilities: “It gives us a great place to inform people about the museum, especially as it will be closed until September 2021. On a positive note, we now have space in which to try innovative presentations.”

In addition to the historical aspects, the museum also provides information about the animals and plants that form a unique ecosystem with the surrounding area of South Georgia. This includes life-size objects such as a leopard seal skull or a toothed whale skeleton. Photo: Heiner Kubny

The idea for a new and interactive site is not new, but has long been a wish of the museum director due to the secluded location of the museum. The fact that the pandemic unlikely allows guests to find their way to South Georgia, as the season has been cancelled by all well-known tour operators, has accelerated the whole project most likely. Both the South Georgia Heritage Trust, which is responsible for the museum, and the three women involved in the project, director Sarah Lurcock, curator Jayne Pierce and web designer Marie Shaft, hope that the new website will be well received. «Hopefully, we have managed to make the new website eye catching to keep people exploring and reading about SouthGeorgia. We also have ambitions to mount an online exhibition – a big challenge for our small team, but one we approach with enthusiasm.» The website currently is available only in English, but all other languages are available via translation programs built into web browsers such as Chrome or Microsoft Edge.

Dr Michael Wenger, PolarJournal

Link to the museum’s website: South Georgia Museum

Link to the virtual tour of the museum and Grytviken on the website of Rolf Stange
Grytviken & Museum

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