Frozen in Time: The Frank Plumley Collection

Collection of personal items, archives and photographs which belonged to Frank Plumley (1876-1971), a stoker on SY Discovery during the British National Antarctic Expedition, 1901-1904, acquired by Dundee Heritage Trust in 2016 with an NFA grant of £12,500.

In 1901 48 men risked their lives in pursuit of the unknown. Led by Captain Robert Falcon Scott on board SY Discovery, the British National Antarctic Expedition of 1901-1904 set sail to pursue scientific and geographic discovery in this largely untouched continent.

Here at Discovery Point, while we aim to tell this story of Antarctic exploration by showcasing both the ship and the men who served on her, the nature of collecting means that our narrative often focuses on just 11 men, the officers and scientists. Some of them published diaries and reports and a few, Scott, Ernest Shackleton and Edward Wilson, went on to become celebrated figures in this Heroic Age of Antarctic exploration. As a result, more material relating to higher ranking men has been recorded and preserved.

Frank Plumley

Frank Plumley in naval uniform

We were therefore delighted when an opportunity arose to redress the balance to some extent. With the support of the National Fund for Acquisitions we secured a collection of 35 items which belonged to Frank Plumley, one of five stokers on board the 1901 expedition and a man we previously knew very little about. The collection includes personal notebooks, poems and letters, service and polar medals, photographs and personal items, including an Expedition Royal Doulton mug, snow goggles and a pipe. Preserved by his grandson, the collection also includes many newspaper cuttings and articles relating to Frank’s later life, allowing us to build up a fascinating history.

Officers and crew of Discovery, Sept 1904

Crew and officers of Discovery on 14 September 1904, the morning after the Lord Mayor’s banquet to celebrate their return. Frank Plumley is in the 4th row, 3rd from the right

Born in 1876 Frank joined the Royal Navy at the age of 20. Five years later at Cape Town, South Africa, he joined Discovery from HMS Gibraltar. During the expedition he was part of Lieutenant Barne’s first attempt in March 1902 to reach Cape Crozier, which struck trouble when a blizzard swept over the Hut Point Peninsula sending George Vince to his death. He later played a part in Captain Scott’s Western Attempt in October 1903. After Discovery he served on a number of Royal Navy ships, including HMS Dreadnought, HMS Venus and HMS King George V, and saw active service during the First World War. He returned to civilian life in 1919, employed as a blacksmith at Gun Wharf in Portsmouth. Frank died in 1971, aged 95, in Newport on the Isle of Wight.

Selection of Plumley material

A selection of material from the Frank Plumley collection

For more detail on these objects or to see other highlights of our fascinating collection please visit our Collections Online http://www.dhtcollections.com/

Louisa Attaheri
Curator
Dundee Heritage Trust

http://www.rrsdiscovery.com

 

 

 

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From Outer Space to Museum Case: a Whiff of the Strange and Exotic

Two fragments of iron meteorite from Canyon Diablo Meteor Crater, Arizona, acquired by Leisure and Culture Dundee in 1983 with an NFA grant of £170.97; polished slice of meteorite from Kainsaz, Russia, 13 September 1937, acquired by the Hunterian in 2009 with an NFA grant of £164.77; fragment of Strathmore meteorite, 3 December 1917, acquired by Leisure and Culture Dundee in 2011 with an NFA grant of £2,000.

There is no question that meteorites have more than a whiff of the strange and exotic about them – and one or two types of meteorite actually do smell! As mankind explores further and further into space and discovers more and more about the origins of the Solar System and the Universe, so the interest in acquiring and studying meteorites has increased and this has led to an increasing awareness by the public.

In response to this, museums are re-evaluating, strengthening and expanding their meteorite collections and the support of the National Fund for Acquisitions is absolutely vital to achieving this goal. The increasing popularity of meteorites has led to a vigorous market in buying and selling these stones and this has resulted in an increase in their value. Some specific types of meteorites can fetch very high prices indeed and this can put them out of the range of most museum budgets. It has been my good fortune, as expert adviser to the NFA, to be involved in the two most recent acquisitions at auction of specimens by the Hunterian in Glasgow and Leisure and Culture Dundee.

Strathmore meteorite

Fragment of the Strathmore meteorite

The specimen bought by Dundee is of particular note as it was a small fragment of the Strathmore meteorite which fell in the Blairgowrie/Coupar Angus area in 1917 and is one of the best documented of the four known Scottish falls. At the time of writing, the fragment is on display at the Mills Observatory in Dundee along with other meteorites, including one on loan from National Museums Scotland. In supporting these bids I was keen to both promote the expansion of these meteorite collections and to see a wider public appreciation of these strange but wonderful objects.

Peter Davidson
Curator of Mineralogy and Expert Adviser to the NFA
National Museums Scotland

www.leisureandculturedundee.com

www.gla.ac.uk/hunterian

Rediscovering Captain Scott’s Forgotten Surgeon

Microscope and medical kit which belonged to Dr Reginald Koettlitz, surgeon onboard RRS Discovery, acquired by Dundee Heritage Trust in 2013 with an NFA grant of £3,000.

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Could you spend four years in a small wooden ship battling icy winds and temperatures averaging around -40 °C with just 47 other men and penguins for company? Discovery Point tells the story of Antarctic exploration and the men who did just that in search of unknown lands, scientific discoveries and adventure.

Copyrigth of Dundee Heritage Trust

Officers and scientists aboard Discovery in Lyttelton, New Zealand, 1901. Dr Koettlitz, with moustache, is pictured in the centre, Captain Scott standing to the right

Our museum centres around RRS (Royal Research Ship) Discovery, a three-masted wooden sailing ship, purpose-built here in Dundee for renowned explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott on his first expedition to Antarctica in 1901. We aim to showcase Discovery and the men who served on her with items varying from navigational and scientific specimens collected on the ship’s three Antarctic expeditions to more personal objects vividly representing daily life for polar explorers of the period.

Over the last few years, with generous support from the NFA, we have been able to secure significant additions to the collection relating both to Discovery and to Scott’s second fateful Antarctic journey on board the Terra Nova. These have included original ship blueprints, rare personal letters and even a teaspoon handcrafted from a broken sledge runner.

Our latest acquisitions, a medical kit and microscope, belonged to Dr Reginald Koettlitz, the senior surgeon and bacteriologist aboard Discovery’s maiden voyage. The lightweight travelling medical kit was used when on sledging journeys exploring the vast Antarctic landscape and collecting important scientific specimens. Ideal for treating minor injuries, its contents include tweezers, scissors, surgeon’s needles and thread.

Copyright of Dundee Heritage Trust

Dr Koettlitz aboard Discovery in the Tropics en route to Antarctica. Picture credit: Ann and Gus Jones

The microscope would have been used for examining both scientific specimens and blood samples taken at the men’s monthly medical examinations. Koettlitz was lucky in that there were few serious injuries to deal with, although minor cases included a number of fractures and cases of scurvy and frostbite. The doctor also carried out the first ever surgical operation in Antarctica, removing a cyst from Lieutenant Royd’s face.

For more details on these objects or to see other highlights of our fantastic collection please visit our Collections Online http://www.dhtcollections.com/

Louisa Attaheri
Assistant Curator
Dundee Heritage Trust
http://www.rrsdiscovery.com

Desperately Seeking Dan

Christmas 1943 issue of The Beano published by D C Thomson, Dundee, acquired by Leisure and Culture Dundee in 2007 with an NFA grant of £145

Despite Dundee being home to such iconic popular characters as Desperate Dan and Dennis the Menace, not a single Beano or Dandy was to be found in the museum collection. In fact we didn’t have anything at all to represent D C Thomson, the company behind journalism in Dundee’s ‘3 Js’; jute, jam and journalism.

2008-5 

With responsibility for selecting objects for The Making of Modern Dundee in the redeveloped McManus Gallery, I set about filling this gap and found a Christmas 1943 issue of the Beano on ebay. With a cartoon on the front cover showing the Beano office and the old printing presses, it was a gift to interpretation!  It also contains some fascinating wartime propaganda. Cartoonist Dudley Watkins, who was responsible for Desperate Dan and Lord Snooty and His Pals, frequently lampooned both Hitler and Mussolini in episodes which saw them outwitted and humiliated by his characters. This issue carries an appeal to readers to help the war effort by recycling their comic: ‘To Adolf, here’s wishing you a terrible Xmas and a worse New Year. All our readers are saving all their waste paper to make sure you’re beaten in 1944’.

Through discussions with staff at NFA I knew I would have to move fast in order to receive financial support. I contacted the seller and he agreed to take the comic to a curator at Brighton Museum and Art Gallery who had kindly agreed to help with condition checking. I was now ready to bid. I had a good idea of how much other comics had sold for and managed to buy ours for just under our top price. Bidding in the final moments was nerve racking but we won.

The seller posted our Beano immediately and we were able to prepare it for display alongside other items from D C Thomson and a typewriter on loan from National Museums Scotland. The display has captured the interest of young and old and our Learning and Access team have used the idea of a comic strip to introduce schools groups to the gallery, helping to bring social and industrial themes to life for children.

My next challenge is to update the display and rest our Beano to prevent light damage – so I am now on the lookout for an interesting and aged Dandy!

Rhona Rodger
Curator (Social History)
Leisure and Culture Dundee
http://www.leisureandculturedundee.com/