Buyers' picks: New galleries collections

Our retail Buyers are some of the first to know what new galleries will display, so they can develop and source beautiful products that capture the essence of exhibitions.  

I caught up with Buyers Vicky Rawlings and Jane Hutton, and Book Buyer Laura Foster to ask them about their inspiration behind new ranges created for three of the four new galleries at the National Maritime Museum – Polar Worlds, Tudor & Stuart Seafarers and Pacific Encounters. Here, they share with us their favourite new products.

polar worlds products

Exclusive Terra Nova gifts with print inspired by the emblem of the 1912 British Antarctic Expedition. From £6.00 shop.rmg.co.uk

Polar Worlds

The new gallery explores the challenges of extreme environments through the stories of heroic explorers including Captain Robert Falcon Scott. Scott was the first British explorer to reach the South Pole, and wanted to find out more about the animals, weather and geology of the Antarctic. Dr Edward Wilson, the zoologist on both Scott's expeditions, collected embryos of emperor penguins so that he could study the birds more closely. Their ship, the Terra Nova, spent Antarctic summers transporting parties engaged with scientific tasks.

In a range created exclusively for Royal Museums Greenwich Shop, Buyer Vicky Rawlings has developed products inspired by the Terra Nova Expedition (officially the British Antarctic Expedition) logo.

Vicky, do you have a favourite product from the items you’ve developed for the Polar Worlds collection, and why?

“My favourite product in the collection is the postcard pack which features photographs of Scott’s expedition by Herbert Ponting. I kept the original typewriter text description which appears underneath the images in an album in the Museum’s collections as it seems to add to the poignancy of the images. I love how the explorers created a home away from home and how intimate the pictures are, it’s like you are being invited in to share their experiences.

The landscapes Ponting captured are simply breathtaking and I can’t imagine people’s reactions when he brought them back and showed people their first glimpse of their discoveries. My favourite image is of Scott writing in his room, as I wonder what he was writing. Did he know how it would end? What was going through his mind? It’s such an evocative image.”

Another heroic explorer featured in the gallery is Sir Ernest Shackleton, a romantic adventurer who became interested in exploration. In 1901 he got a place on Captain Robert Falcon Scott's first Antarctic expedition. This ignited his passion for Antarctic exploration, and in 1907, he led his own expedition in the Nimrod, and would return a further two times. 

Buyer Jane Hutton has sourced for the shop the Shackleton collection of heritage knitwear and accessories.

Jane, could you tell us a little about the Shackleton collection and why you like it? 

“The Shackleton collection is a compact range of clothing and accessories which are reproductions of the items worn by Sir Earnest Shackleton, or members of his team, on several polar expeditions.

I love the classic, timeless quality of the range, proof that functionality can also be very stylish. My favourite piece is the signature sweater, knitted from 100% wool, which is warmer and faster drying than many modern day synthetics. I also like the two tassel hat, inspired by the one worn by Tom Crean. All pieces are created using traditional knitting techniques in the UK.”

Shackleton sweater and wool hat

Shackleton Signature Jumper £150.00 and Crewman Hat £50.00, available from shop.rmg.co.uk.

Tudor & Stuart Seafarers

Items on display in this new gallery tell the compelling story of how a small island positioned on the edge of Europe transformed itself into the world's leading maritime power. It features exquisite maps and charts, and stories of exploration and trade, and in the range you’ll find leather accessories, expert tea blends and Queen Elizabeth I.

Vicky, the new leather travel accessories created in response to the Tudor & Stuart Seafarers gallery are fit for a king (or queen)! What inspired these?

“I love our maps and charts collection so I was spoilt for choice when I saw what was going into the new Tudor & Stuart Seafarers gallery! I loved the idea of creating a travel range using one of the maps on display, the idea that at that time in history we didn’t know what was out there and still set out in ships anyway! There’s something magical about travelling, exploring new places and making new memories. With these practical travel accessories, plus a passport, the world is your oyster!”

Exclusive recycled leather luggage tag £10.00, travelcard holder £10.00 and passport cover £15.00, from shop.rmg.co.uk

Pacific Encounters

In the new gallery, learn about The Pacific, the world’s biggest ocean, and the people who have lived there for thousands of years. British voyages to the Pacific by men such as Captain Cook changed the world forever. Scientific discoveries they documented and the legacies and traditions of the people living there today are explored. Discover artistic representations of the Pacific islands and their occupants by artists such as William Hodges and George Stubbs. Inspired by the voyage of the Endeavour, navigational instruments and botanical drawings of the flora and fauna  on display helped inspire the new shop collection.

Jane, You find beautiful, authentic navigational instruments for the shop. What new ones are there for the Pacific Encounters collection?

“To enhance our existing range of replica instruments, I have  been inspired by the Pacific encounters gallery to introduce  a couple of new pieces. A set of instruments (brass telescope, magnifying glass and compass) presented in a polished wooden box makes a beautiful gift.

We also have a replica sextant which comes in an aged leather box, both pieces make wonderful decorative items but unfortunately won’t help you in the middle of the Pacific ocean!”

Joseph Bank’s Florilegium £65.00 and magnifying glass, part of the navigational gift set £45.00, available from shop.rmg.co.uk

Our Book Buyer Laura Foster has the enviable job of choosing, from hundreds of titles, books that are significant enough to earn a place on the shelves in the shops.  

Laura, you’ve selected the beautiful Florilegium for the Pacific Encounters collection – can you tell us a little more about this special book?

“This book has been some 200 years in the making but it was truly worth the wait and I’m so excited to finally get my hands on it! This is the first time full colour prints of hundreds of the most important and exquisite 18th century botanical illustrations have been available in book form.

The illustrations are based on the thousands of plant specimens collected by the British naturalist, Joseph Banks, who sailed with Captain Cook on the first of his great voyages to the Pacific. Many of the prints are on display in the new Pacific Encounters gallery at the National Maritime Museum so it was really important that we reflected this in our book selection.

Not only is it a major scientific and historical resource, it really is a book of outstanding beauty that would make a wonderful gift for someone special, when bought together with the new publications from National Maritime Museum featuring contributions from our curators.”

What’s on your reading list next from the three collections?

“I’ve just finished reading Michael Palin’s first book in 6 years, Erebus, which tells the fascinating and dramatic story of the ship Sir John Franklin captained on his ill-fated Arctic expedition during the 19th century. Michael Palin’s masterful storytelling made me even more excited to see the objects from Franklin’s expedition on display in the National Maritime Museum’s new Polar Worlds gallery. 

Next up on my reading list is Black Tudors by Miranda Kaufmann. The opening of the new Tudor & Stuart Seafarers gallery coincides with Black History month which celebrates the contributions made by people of African descent in Britain. This fascinating book (recently published in paperback) reveals Black people have been living, working and thriving in Britain for far longer than many of us had imagined.

One of the most remarkable stories is that of a Mauritanian diver whom Henry VIII dispatched to salvage lost treasures from the Mary Rose.

And finally, I’m really excited to read Peter Moore’s Endeavour which was released this year to coincide with the 250th anniversary of Captain Cook’s voyage to the Pacific upon HMS Endeavour. Much like Michael Palin’s Erebus, Moore uses the ship as a vessel through which to tell the story of the voyage that changed the world.”

Browse the new galleries ranges in our shop