Preserving Hurley’s Legacy

Preserving Hurley’s Legacy RGS-IBG
26 Feb
The RGS-IBG has digitised its historic collection of glass plate and celluloid negatives from Frank Hurley, official photographer of the Endurance Expedition

To mark the centenary of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, now better known as the Endurance Expedition, the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) has, for the first time, digitised its historic collection of glass plate and celluloid negatives directly from the originals. The resulting images reveal previously unseen details in the remarkable photographs taken by Shackleton’s official expedition photographer, Frank Hurley.

The Society’s Enduring Eye exhibition, which displayed Hurley’s images to the public at the large-scale he originally envisaged, finishes its residence at our Kensington headquarters on 28 February. Set to tour four national venues thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), it arrives in Manchester Central Library in April.

Entitled Shackleton’s Endurance: Discovering Our Shared Antarctic Heritage, an accompanying HLF-supported community project will focus on local stories, linked to the men who accompanied Shackleton on the expedition.

Digitising Hurley’s images directly from the fragile negatives stored at the Society has both dramatically increased the resolution of his iconic images and unlocked new information about the expedition party’s battle for survival both before and after the Endurance sank through the ice of the Weddell Sea. For the first time, writing and faces in many interior images have become discernible, as well as key features of life on the pack ice, originally captured by Hurley’s meticulous photographic processing.

To further preserve Hurley’s legacy, the Society has collaborated with one of the world’s leading print-makers, Salto-Ulbeek, to create a limited edition series of platinum prints from the images. The platinum printing process is one of the rarest, most refined, and stable of all black and white printing processes.

The resulting platinum images, which when properly preserved can last thousands of years, exhibit an expanded tonal range and three-dimensionality. Each individual image is remarkable not only for surviving Hurley’s first edit, when he was forced to smash 400 of his estimated 520 glass plates on the sea ice following the loss of the Endurance, but also the hazardous trip to Elephant Island and finally London. Rightly regarded as a leading Antarctic photographer, through his images Hurley provides a vivid and lasting record of what has been described by many as the greatest ever story of human survival.

To receive a copy of the Hurley Platinum Prints prospectus containing information about the series, please email [email protected] or telephone
020 7591 3060. Each limited edition print is museum-grade quality and bears the seal of the Society.

Share this story...

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to Twitter

Related items

Leave a comment

ONLY registered members can leave comments and each comment is held pending authorisation before publishing. Please login or register to voice your opinion.

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.

Subscribe Today


Aberystwyth UniversityUniversity of GreenwichThe University of Winchester




Travel the Unknown


Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • REDD+ or Dead?
    The UN-backed REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) scheme, under which developing nations would be paid not to cut dow...
    The true cost of meat
    As one of the world’s biggest methane emitters, the meat industry has a lot more to concern itself with than merely dietary issues ...
    Long live the King
    It is barely half a century since the Born Free story caused the world to re-evaluate humanity’s relationship with lions. A few brief decades later,...
    London: a walk in the park
    In the 2016 London Mayoral election, the city’s natural environment was high on the agenda. Geographical asks: does the capital have a green future,...
    The Money Trail
    Remittance payments are a fundamental, yet often overlooked, part of the global economy. But the impact on nations receiving the money isn’t just a ...


NEVER MISS A STORY - follow Geographical

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.