chapter  9
14 Pages

Heroic Stories or Indigenous Perspectives? Polar Expedition Photographs in Norwegian Museum Exhibitions

The contribution of polar explorers to a broad visual culture was greatly accelerated by the development of photography. Conversely photography afforded polar exploration a new visibility. The camera became an important tool for documentation of the actual journeys and bestowing both authenticity and authority of the locations visited, the objectives achieved, and the methods and tools. However, the climatic conditions in polar regions made photography difficult and it was not unusual for many of the expedition photographs to be taken in advance or as a reconstruction afterwards. Upon returning home the photographs took on an important role as visual evidence of what had been experienced and achieved. In this way they contributed to strengthening the stories about the expeditions in various publications, and were from the end of the nineteenth century and into the beginning of the twentieth century used both as the basis for graphic illustrations, reproduced as xylographs (wood block prints), and printed photographs (Larsen 2011: 12-13). Photographs were also an essential part of the lecture tours following the expeditions, where they were used both to inform and obtain funds to pay off existing debts or to finance new expeditions. Thus the varied afterlife and receptions of photographs are valuable for the understanding of Norwegian polar history. In this chapter I consider the afterlife of specific images as they are used in museum spaces.