Naomi Chapman, Education and Outreach Assistant
The Polar Museum
These beautiful ceilings were painted in 1934 by Macdonald Gill, brother of the sculptor Eric Gill. The artist put up scaffolding in order to paint the ceilings. Near the museum reception desk there is a photo of Macdonald painting the ceilings with his assistant Pamela Johnstone. We’ve never had to clean or restore the ceilings because the curve of the domes protects them from damage by light and pollution. The map of the Arctic is quite accurate, but the Antarctic is wrong, because it wasn’t until 1937 (after the map was painted) that explorers finally worked out the shape of the continent.
The North Pole map shows four different ways to explore the Arctic. One of them is an airship, which looks like a large, grey, egg-shaped balloon. This airship was the Norge, in which Roald Amundsen, Lincoln Ellsworth and Umberto Nobile made the first successful flight over the Pole in 1926. From around this time, a new character appears in local Inuit legend, a flying whale called Toogooktook. We are pretty sure that the Inuit saw this strange whale-shaped object which inspired their stories. We’re really fond of these ceilings decorated with the names of the major explorers
and their ships – not only do they look wonderful, but they also tell of the history of exploration and the geography of the polar regions.