Not great pictures, just a few shots taken on my phone as the Science Museum was closing yesterday afternoon. I wanted to share some glimpses of my exhibition, which opened last night. Actually, in Museum parlance, this is ‘a display.’ Anyway, thrillingly, it is up for a year, so you have plenty of time to see it. And the Museum and I have plenty of time to get some proper photos taken.
It is not quite finished. We still have to tweak the lighting, but getting this far by the end of yesterday involved masses of hard work by lots of very committed and talented people, and we ran out of time. But it is very nearly there.
So pending the production of some proper photos of the final, finished state, here at least are a few snaps.
First a long-shot showing the fantastic, clear sight-line across the Atmosphere Gallery to Jake Tilson’s wonderful 20-foot tall logotype. This is the same logotype as appears on the cover of the book. As you might not be able to make out from my hopeless photo, this is not only visible but also clearly legible from about 100 yards away as you enter the space.
The medium shot below shows both the logotype and the beautiful, custom-built display cabinet, which contains books, papers and ephemera relating to the novel.
I’m thrilled also to say that thanks to the wonderful Folio Society, I have been able to include a beautiful facsmile of the South Polar Times, showing the weird ‘climate change’ short story written by George Clarke Simpson in 1911 that was part of the inspiration for my novel. I am very grateful to them for their support of this project.
A few hours after I got these snaps, the Atmosphere Gallery was heaving with the thousands of people who had come to a climate science-themed Science Museum Lates.
I’m very excited about the novel, and about the innovative way that the Science Museum is publishing it.
A dedicated touchscreen (visible at the left-hand side of the beautiful, custom-built case) enables visitors to email themselves a free and DRM-free copy of my novel Shackleton’s Man Goes South.
The apparent simplicity of this interactivity is deceptive. It has taken a lot of work by a lot of people to make it possible. At one point it looked as if this defining functionality, a central aspect of our publishing experiment, might not be technically possible. Thankfully, that hurdle was overcome.
All of which means that I’m doubly delighted to report that the technology works!
Last night, visitors to the Atmosphere Gallery — some of whom had just come to the novel’s launch event and already bought a copy of the limited edition paperback — were emailing themselves the book and opening it seconds later to read on their phone or tablet. I was slightly kicking myself that we didn’t have a ‘cutting the ribbon’ photo-opp, where some celebrity might have been the first person to email themselves a book via the display. But actually that is not what this is about. It is about finding ways — as the square-footage of the book trade vanishes — to go where readers are, and to learn from what readers do (and I include myself in that group). Sometimes this means collaborating with institutions outside or alongside the book trade, to develop new ways to put books and readers together — in this case using digital technology in a new way.
And it works.
Here’s a screengrab of a nice tweet from my friend and colleague the novelist and critic Nicholas Blincoe.