National Maritime Museum's Caird Fellowships / by Thea Augustina

The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich London offers Caird Short-term Research Fellowships for 2-3 months each year for scholars to do research within their collections. These collections are not small either. They include more than 2 million items, from manuscripts in their library and archive, to prints & drawings, objects for navigation, ship models, maps and ship blueprints. Though my interests fall within their polar collections, some of the past research projects include their slave and abolition collection and women's employment at sea. Basically anything maritime related and British historical. The deadline is quickly approaching- November 1- and is their annual deadline.

My proposal is based around how communication was handled in the polar regions in the 1800's and at the turn of the century. Shackleton used semaphore in the Antarctic to guide sledge teams back to the ship over the high ridges of ice. I am interested in this and other ways in which technology played a role in cold weather communication. Tin cans with notes listing longitude and latitude buried in cairns along Arctic coastlines was a way in which the British adopted an Inuit way of storing stashes of meat in these stone piles. I would like to investigate how these communication efforts changed and evolved as more British expeditions ventured into the Arctic/Antarctic. How were they influenced by the landscape and Inuit, or completely ignored both? How did items, such as sledges and clothing, evolve as well to aid in travel? This topic is one that I briefly skimmed the surface of when I was doing research at the museum two years ago. It is time to go back and revisit it more indepth. The use of nautical flags in my work stemmed from it.

My aim for this research is to create a new series of sculptures/photographs inspired by what I find. Now whether the National Maritime Museum's selection committee will be hip to my idea as a visual artist and not an academic scholar is another issue. But here's to trying.

Currently the museum is showcasing the famed Northwest Passage in an exhibition which runs through January 2010.