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Special Exhibition 2024

Parts Unknown:
Cook’s Quest for the Northwest Passage

From 30th March to 31st October 2024

Cook should be remembered as an Arctic explorer! 

In 1776, Cook set sail with two ships, Resolution and Discovery, to find the fabled Northwest Passage.  Why was the Passage so important? Europe’s maritime nations had long hoped to find a sea route to connect the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through the Arctic which would provide a shortcut to reach Asia. The Northwest Passage was seen as a way to expand trade, enhance geographical knowledge and strengthen national maritime prestige.


The exhibition will highlight the importance of the indigenous peoples who had inhabited these regions for thousands of years. Cook was by now an experienced observer of indigenous societies, and the responses of artists, officers and crew shed revealing insights into the cultures of peoples who were little known in Europe.


The achievements of the voyage, and subsequent attempts, to find the Northwest Passage will be explored. Original items collected by Cook’s crew will be on display as well as objects recovered from the later, ill-fated, Terror and Erebus expedition.  The issues facing the region today, as the Northwest Passage becomes more accessible due to climate change, will also be considered.

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