‘Heroism displayed’: revisiting the Franklin Gallery at the Royal Naval Exhibition, 1891.

Excellent article on the use by Clements Markham and others to reignite interest in Arctic exploration through a blockbuster exhibition of 1891, reinforcing romantic, patriotic, heroic, and other ideals from past British history.

p. 201: Studying exhibitions can provide valuable insights. One has the rare opportunity to prise underneath the ‘official mind’ of patriotism, and to gauge public reaction through press reports and periodical articles. They have left behind a deposit of cheap publications, pamphlets, and ephemera which illustrate—some more skillfully than others—a variety of narratives, imperial, racial, or in this instance (the Royal Naval Exhibition of 1891) naval, that were disseminated for public consumption, some soon discarded while others became quickly entrenched. Despite the patriotic and moral didacticism that provides the body to most of the surviving sources, the RNE celebration of exploration…had an instrumental currency that was real as well as rhetorical. The RNE must have been central to propagating heroic myths, and whilst one cannot detail its precise role in culturing an exact part of late-century public consciousness, one can claim for it the achievement, at least, of putting a vision of Arctic [and for Markham Antarctic] exploration firmly back in the public domain.