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To mark the centenary of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s death in 1922 on the Quest expedition, a new exhibition, Shackleton’s legacy and the power of early Antarctic photography, will be on display from 7 February at the Royal Geographical Society in London.

Presenting the influences and motivations which led Shackleton to a lifetime commitment to the polar region, the exhibition documents the role of photography and literature throughout his career, and his dedication to sharing his hard-won knowledge and experiences of Antarctica to the wider world.

The Endurance expedition of 1914-17 was a pivotal moment in Shackleton’s polar career, successfully turning disaster to triumph, and where his focus on the power of photography to document the experience was paramount. Shackleton’s legacy therefore revives the Society’s acclaimed 2015 exhibition of Frank Hurley’s Endurance expedition photographs, The Enduring Eye, curated by polar historian Meredith Hooper.

To complement this existing content, the new exhibition’s guest curator Dr Jan Piggott, former Keeper of Archives and Rare Books at Dulwich College, has drawn on original documents and photography, including some previously unseen and newly digitised, as well as chronicling the polar explorer’s early life, schooldays, career, own writing and love of poetry, and achievements before and after the expedition which catapulted him to fame.

Visitors will learn what influenced Shackleton’s passion for the Antarctic through a consideration of polar photography and get the chance to marvel at the stunning images taken by Shackleton or commissioned by him from leading photographers. Alongside the drama and heroics of his expeditions, audiences will also develop a keen sense of the man and his vision - as a champion of early 20th century visual communication - without which our awareness and understanding of Antarctica would not exist today.

Shackleton’s legacy is made possible through the generous support of British performance apparel company Shackleton, the James Caird Society, the Folio Society, the South Georgia Association, the Devon and Cornwall Polar Society, and private donation.

Shackleton’s legacy and the power of early Antarctic photography is at the Society from 7 February until 4 May 2022. Entry is free, and the exhibition will be open Monday to Friday from 10.00am-5.00pm and on Saturdays from 10.00am-4.00pm. The exhibition will be closed on bank holidays. For more information and to plan your visit, see The Society plans to tour the exhibition in the UK to the Shipwreck Treasure Museum in South Cornwall between April and October 2022.



Notes to editor

  • For further media enquiries, please contact the Society’s Press Officer, Lucy Preston, on +44 (0)77 1478 3126 or  

  • The Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) is the learned society and professional body for geography. Formed in 1830, our Royal Charter of 1859 is for 'the advancement of geographical science'. Today, we deliver this objective through developing, supporting and promoting geographical research, expeditions and fieldwork, education, public engagement, and geography input to policy. We aim to foster an understanding and informed enjoyment of our world. We hold the world's largest private geographical collection and provide public access to it. We have a thriving Fellowship and membership and offer the professional accreditation 'Chartered Geographer’.

  • Headline sponsor: Shackleton designs and develops performance apparel for people living and working in the world’s extremes. Driven by exploration and innovation, the company is built on the life and values of polar titan Sir Ernest Shackleton and exists to inspire, prepare and equip people for the challenge. They design in London and work with the highest quality manufacturers in the UK, Italy and around the world. Fur-free and RDS-compliant, they are committed to continual improvement of our sustainability standards.

  • Located above Cornwall’s historic port of Charlestown, a UNESCO World Heritage site, the award-winning Shipwreck Treasure Museum is home to the largest private collection of shipwreck artefacts in Europe. Visitors can discover nearly 8,000 fascinating treasures recovered from over 150 shipwrecks.

  • The Society also recognises the contribution of the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust, the Governments of the British Antarctic Territory and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands for their support for the original Enduring Eye exhibition, and Rolex and the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 for their on-going support for the Society’s Collections-related work.