Maritime Lecture Series: Imagining the Arctic

Half marathon notice

Visitor notice: On Sunday 4 March Cutty Sark and the museum car park will be closed for the Vitality Big Half Marathon. All other museums will be open as normal and DLR and rail links will be running. Find out about road closures

Essential information

Event type: 
Date and time: 
28 September 2017 | 11am - 12.30pm
National Maritime Museum, Lecture Theatre
Talks & courses

Unearth the shocking story of Franklin's final expedition in this lecture series.

Throughout the nineteenth century the British public frequently ‘got lost’ in the Frozen North. Leading explorers were the celebrity figures of their day and they went to great lengths to convince their audiences of the merits of polar exploration, capturing public fascinations, to persuade governments to finance ambitious proposals, and to bolster support for the Royal Navy. In theatres, in art, in verse and song, the achievements of explorers were promoted, celebrated, and manipulated, whilst explorers themselves became the subject of huge attention. Whether an expedition was successful, or not, often depended as much upon what was imagined to have happened as to what actually occurred, far off beyond the edges of the map.

Drawing from his elegant new book Imagining the Arctic, Huw explores the culture and politics of Arctic exploration and the making of its heroes. Utilising fresh perspectives on key figures, including Admiral Lord Nelson, Sir John Ross, Commander John Cheyne and Sir John Franklin, and the century’s greatest polar show – the Royal Naval Exhibition of 1891 – we consider how and why a cult of polar exploration was developed, also bringing the story into the present day. Huw will reveal a trove of striking images, many seen for the first time since the nineteenth century, including engravings, paintings, charts, playbills, advertisements, caricatures and magic lantern slides. Imagining the Arctic offers original insights into our understanding of exploration and its pull on the public imagination.

Dr Huw Lewis-Jones is an award-winning historian of exploration, photo-editor and polar guide with a PhD from the University of Cambridge. He was a Fellow at Harvard University and Curator of both the National Maritime Museum in London and the Scott Polar Research Institute. He has travelled widely across the Arctic regions, also voyaging to the North Pole three times this past summer. His many books include Explorers’ Sketchbooks (2016), The Crossing of Antarctica (2014), The Lifeboat (2013), In Search of the South Pole (2011) and Ocean Portraits (2010). In 2015 Huw won the Leif Erikson History Award for his ongoing heritage advocacy. He lives in Cornwall.


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