It is, perhaps, our job more than anyone’s to flag up things you should go and see in Liverpool. And we’ve been meaning to pay attention to the things you might overlook in the city, just because they’re so familiar.
World Museum, the Walker, the Tate, the Bluecoat, the Unity, the Phil. We’ve all missed stuff because we’ve simply missed the wood for the trees. Like we almost did with the Endurance exhibition at the Maritime Museum.
Almost, because I went on the very last day was on and were present, still peering at the photos, when the lights suddenly got switched off at 4.45.
This was a shame, because it was a wonderful exhibition and I wish more people had seen it. The subject matter is, of course, compelling: Shackleton’s vain attempt to negotiate Antarctica in the Endurance that saw the ship beset by ice for seven months before it was crushed by pack ice; and the crew’s subsequent, unlikely journey home.
We’ll not recount the tale here. Suffice it to say, it was a journey of Homeric proportions. What is worth flagging up is the simple, tasteful curation at the Museum that allowed the images of the “very Australian” Frank Hurley do the work.
Bar a couple of videos recounting the age of heroic Arctic exploration and another explaining the nature of pack ice on the Wedddell Sea there was little to add to the stunning, beautiful, technically superb photography of Frank Hurley. Nothing was superfluous. It was an exercise in informative, restrained presentation.
A life-size mock-up of the James Caird – a small open boat that took Shackleton and a small group of men to South Georgia to raise the alarm, against all odds – was presented against projections of a shifting sea and sky. A sextant, the only means by which the James Caird’s skipper could navigate, is also presented, inviting onlookers to try to take a reading. It brought home what a fantastic voyage it was.
The Endurance exhibition was neatly complemented by the final visit of HMS Liverpool to the city – probably the last time you had to take a look around that ship. The destroyer seemed industrial and impersonal to me – embarking 30 minutes before gangways were withdrawn – in contrast to the almost quaint derring-do of the Endurance, its crew and cat, Mrs Chippy. But no doubt it feels as much like home to its crew as the Endurance did to its.
So, what’s the moral of the story? Don’t take your museums, galleries or theatres for granted. Make time to do the things that are important to you. One day, you might find – like I did with the Endurance exhibition, HMS Liverpool or the Conservation Centre – that you’re running out of time.