Creating My First Polar Exhibit

Here is a copy of my article from Issue 90 of the Club's Journal 'Penguin Views'.

Why Exhibit?

Whilst I have been a polar collector for over ten years I have never taken the step to exhibit parts of my collection.

My collecting interests are broadly Antarctic and Sub-Antarctic material from 1940 onwards. I am attempting to create a world collection (i.e. all countries active in the region) but started with a focus on TAAF and Australian postal covers.

I have a specific interest in tracing the involvement of pioneering female scientists in Antarctica, and this is the subject matter that I want to try and create for a two frame exhibit. Last year I started pulling together my existing material and conducting some deeper research. At our club meeting in November 2016 I took the opportunity of presenting some of my material to members, seeking their assistance to develop this exhibit. What follows is a description of the preparatory work I did and the valuable feedback I received from club members.

Getting Started

My starting point was the exhibit title (topic) and I did spend several months searching for a topic that really interested me. Specifically, it was when we finally launched our website ( that as a part of the site, I created an interactive timeline of Antarctic exploration that stretches over 2,500 years and starts in 600 BC ( It was while doing this that I noticed the almost complete absence of women in the timeline.

As a sideways thought I started wondering about female contributions to science. I became intrigued and came to the conclusion that their contribution to Antarctic scientific work needs better recognition. This was the germ of an idea for my first exhibit.

The question then was: could I create a history of female scientific activity based on philatelic material? To answer this I needed to know:

  1. What relevant philatelic material could be collected? What material did I currently have? Which female scientists were pioneers in Antarctic research?

  2. What makes a ‘good’ exhibit? What are the requirements? How do judges ‘judge’? and

  3. Finally I needed to select a suitable philatelic event where I could exhibit.

I began by looking through my own philatelic material to identify any covers either signed by female scientists or related to their activities. I soon found over two dozen covers signed by pioneering female scientists. These were enough to encourage me that I had a good set of material to begin with.

Then I created a detailed timeline of the work of female scientists in Antarctica so that I could identify any gaps in my philatelic material. The timeline was created primarily using online resources of which the most important was Wikipedia. Here is a short list of the most important sources I found:

I also looked for books and combed newspaper archives for further information about women in Antarctica. The best books I have found so far are:

  • Women on the Ice by Elizabeth Chipman, Melbourne University Press 1986

  • Women in the Antarctic edited by Esther Rothblum, Jacqueline Weinstock, and Jessica Morris,Harrington Park Press, 1998

However, my knowledge of exhibiting is almost zero so I searched a little for guidance and found a few extremely useful guides:

  • Essence of Polar Philately by Hal Vogel has a fantastic chapter on exhibiting. This is my #1 guide to exhibiting and also a key reference book in general,

  • How to Build a Philatelic Exhibit by the American Association of Philatelic Exhibitors, Inc,

  • Welcome to the World of Stamp Exhibiting! by Tom Fortunato,

  • An Introduction to Exhibiting Part 1 and 2 by the Australian Philatelic Federation.

Creating a First Draft Exhibit

So with a timeline of female scientists and some good research under my belt I started to organise the exhibit with the title “A Philatelic History of Women in Science South of 50o 1955 – 1980”. This was to be a single frame entry (that’s 16 A4 pages). I organised the sequence of my presentation in the order that the female scientist/s first travelled to Antarctica. Each scientist (or group) had one or two pages consisting of a paragraph or two describing their work, together with any signed covers that I had collected (or knew I wanted to collect). Figure 1 below is an example:

Figure 1: 1968 McMurdo Station cover signed by Marie Darby who studied the penguin colony at Cape Bird

I now felt ready to present my work to club members seeking their assistance to help refine all this information into an interesting exhibit..

Feedback received at our November 2016 meeting

We are very fortunate that amongst our club members there are a number of very experienced polar exhibitors, and they are very willing to help you. They gave me a lot of very constructive and useful feedback. Here is a summary:

  • The pages need to be much more clearly organised. The reference sources I listed will guide me in doing this,

  • Use bullet points rather than the long paragraphs I have written,

  • Try to limit each scientist to a single page,

  • Mention the dates when they were in Antarctica,

  • List their most significant published journal articles and books.

This feedback (and the encouragement of the group) re-energised me and I am now working on a new draft of my (now two frame) exhibit. I am also following up on some excellent tips on how to find further philatelic material to include. I will write more about this in the May- August edition of Penguin Views.

#Exhibiting #AntarcticHistory

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