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30.01.15 Additional story

Unfortunately, due to the vagaries of Falkland Islands weather, we are currently stuck in Stanley for an extra day after our flight was postponed last night for 24 hours. Apparently, gale force gusting crosswinds are not suitable for airplane takeoffs!

Still, it meant I had time to visit the new Falkland Islands Museum which I had not had time to get to during the last two weeks. I visited this museum two years ago before it was moved to its new location. Back then, it was in a small building at the top end of Stanley, every conceivable piece of space crammed with stories and displays each vying for attention but difficult to concentrate on due to the overcrowding. Now, it has a shiny new, custom-built, two-storey building on the central waterfront, the displays have more space to view and it is easier to see and follow the stories of the different aspects of Falklands culture.

This is a ‘local’ museum in the sense that it tells the story of the Falkland Islands from discovery and colonisation through to the present day, through social, natural, maritime and military histories. Not surprisingly, the social history aspects get the most detail and time and, slightly disappointingly, at least from my point of view, the natural history section is both small and fairly superficial. The most significant birds and mammals get a quick mention, invertebrates not at all, with no mention of the rich marine life found here. Geology fares even worse. There is however, a nice section on the commercial fisheries, their importance as well as the work done to monitor them, control them and help reduce bird mortalities associated with them. There is also a section on the current oil exploration. The Islands have long had associations with Antarctic exploration with many expeditions passing through the islands, Shackleton particularly spending time here. The ‘Reclus Hut’, for many years a research hut at Portal Point in the Antarctic, was shipped back here along with all of its contents before it was lost, after it had been closed and abandoned for many years. In the old museum, this was outside and was still faring badly in the weather. Now, it has a place inside along with the expeditionary stories related to its history and should last for many more years to come, reminding people just how tough Antarctic exploration was back then.

Outside, with more space and new coats of paint are the larger displays of maritime and military objects including a harpoon gun, now looking clean and shiny as opposed to the rusting relic it was before (see before and after photos). Unfortunately, the labels for these seem to have disappeared for now, with only my old photos to tell me what they are. Hopefully, these labels will be replaced soon as visitors will always want to know what it is they are looking at.

I’m glad the museum has been given more space and funds to properly showcase the Islands history and culture, the stories do deserve it. Perhaps in the future, they may be persuaded to expand the natural history sections in keeping with the variety and diversity of life they have here, also a story well-deserving of being told.

Dr Teresa Darbyshire

Senior Curator: Invertebrate Biodiversity (Marine Invertebrates)
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