Image: Captain Noel kinematographing the ascent of Mt. Everest from the Chang La [one of his Sherpa porters can be seen steadying the tripod]
We are delighted to announce that an exhibition marking the centenary of the 1920s expeditions to Everest will take place at the Society in autumn 2022.
The first European organised attempts to explore the high Himalaya and reach the summit of Everest commenced in 1921, with the first reconnaissance expedition. The second expedition in 1922 drew on the mapping, photography, and findings from 1921, while the third expedition in 1924 reached the highest point on the mountain so far, but also resulted in the tragic deaths of George Mallory and Sandy Irvine, who were lost on the mountain.
The Society and the Alpine Club, London were instrumental in the planning and execution of these expeditions from the beginning, having formed the Mount Everest Committee in 1919 to combine the geographical, cartographic and scientific interests of the Society with the mountaineering expertise and technical knowledge of the Alpine Club. Both organisations in turn drew much from the work of the Survey of India and were also inspired by the early research of the Scottish mountaineer and scientist Dr Alexander Kellas.
Following the success of the 1921 expedition which gathered and shared vital geographical information, the Mount Everest Committee sought to further document the region using the latest equipment and techniques to survey, map and photograph the landscape and document the people of the Himalayas. This led to the involvement of the professional photographer and filmmaker, Captain John Noel, who was aware of the commercial opportunity available to present the first footage of the people and landscapes of the region, and the attempt to summit the mountain, to public audiences in the West.
At the heart of the Society’s planned new exhibition are the films that Captain John Noel produced of the 1922 and 1924 expeditions, which document the two attempts to reach the summit, and show the first footage of Tibet seen in the West. Using the films, and items from the Society’s wider Everest collection, the exhibition will explore how film helped create the popular image of Everest and how subsequent research on the films has identified elements of the Everest expeditions that are not well known, including the role of local knowledge, the making and commercialisation of the films, and the context and uses of expeditionary film today.
Alongside the films, the exhibition will also include a number of artefacts that accompanied the expedition teams and that highlight the promotion of the films at the time.
The Society is working with global experience design agency, Event, who are offering pro bono support to develop the concept and oversee the design and delivery of the exhibition. Event have received numerous awards for their various projects which span the UK, Europe and internationally.
The Everest centenary exhibition will be on display in the Society’s Pavilion from early October 2022 until January 2023.
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