The Scott Polar Research Institute has launched an appeal to save Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s ‘lost’ polar negatives. A last minute stay of execution means it now has until 25 March to save the negatives for the nation.

The negatives are a key component of the expedition’s material legacy as an object and as a collection in themselves.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes

Due to the overwhelming level of public support and assistance from public bodies and charities, The Scott Polar Research Institute has already raised a fifth of the purchase price of £275,000 in just six weeks. Following careful negotiation, the vendors have agreed to extend the original deadline for the sale of these historic images. The Institute now has until 25 March to raise the necessary funds to purchase Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s rediscovered photographic negatives, taken in 1911 on the British Antarctic Expedition, for its Polar Museum.

As part of the Institute’s redoubling of efforts to secure the negatives, it has today launched a video of Britain's greatest living explorer, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, giving his full support to the appeal and explaining the importance of preserving the negatives for the nation. Fiennes stresses the uniqueness of the negatives and their importance both to the national heritage and to research.

In the video, Sir Ranulph Fiennes says: “The negatives of Scott’s lost photographs are of major significance to the national heritage. Scott’s attainment of the South Pole and his subsequent death captured the public imagination on its discovery in 1913 and continues to exercise an extraordinary fascination. The negatives are a key component of the expedition’s material legacy as an object and as a collection in themselves. Although the Scott Polar Research Institute holds prints of a number of these photographs, acquiring the negatives is very important. They take us right back to the point of origin, a fact made all the more exciting given that the Institute also holds the camera on which they were taken. Unlike a print, of which any number can be made, the negatives are unique and would be a huge asset to the Institute.”

The extension to the deadline gives time to approach further funding bodies and private donors. The generosity of the public is vital in the race to ensure that the negatives remain available to all in perpetuity, for research and exhibition.

Julian Dowdeswell, Director of the Scott Polar Research Institute, said: “There has been an extraordinarily generous response to the appeal, proving how important Scott remains in the national imagination. Every donation, however small, brings us closer to reaching our goal of £275,000. With this new extension, I am confident we can raise the remaining funds to acquire the negatives.”

The Polar Museum needs to find a further £200,000 in the next three weeks to avoid the prospect of the 113 photographic negatives being sold at auction.

The negatives are a record of Scott’s earliest attempts - under the guidance of expedition photographer Herbert Ponting - through to his unparalleled images of his team on the Southern Journey. The force, control and beauty of his portraits and landscapes number them among some of the finest early images of the Antarctic.

The Polar Museum is already home to the remaining prints of Scott's photographs, Herbert Ponting’s glass plate negatives and Ponting’s presentation album from the same expedition. Added to that are the prints and albums of all the other expedition members equipped with a camera. Together, they form the most comprehensive photographic record of the expedition held anywhere in the world.

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