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From Death in the Ice to Life in the Museum: Absence, affect, and mystery in the Arctic

Medby, I; Dittmer, J; (2021) From Death in the Ice to Life in the Museum: Absence, affect, and mystery in the Arctic. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

Ever since its disappearance in the mid-nineteenth century, the fate of the Franklin expedition has attracted interest and intrigue. The story has been told and re-told, but remained one of 'mystery' into the early twenty-first century. When the expedition’s two ships were finally located, the narrative shifted with the reappearance of long-absent objects and materials – in turn, posing challenges for museum curators seeking to re-present the story. In this article, we conduct a side-by-side examination of two sites: the 1845 Franklin expedition in the Northwest Passage and the 2017 Death in the Ice exhibition at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, UK. We juxtapose these to consider the forces unleashed by the ships’ absence and their presence-ing first in Victorian times and then in the UK museum space today. By analysing the sites through the concept of ‘absent presence’, the agency of both the material and the immaterial is powerfully highlighted. Via an emphasis on the relation of the absent presence to the sensing bodies of others, we consider the concept as simultaneous and co-constitutive. That is, absence and presence ought to be understood not as objective states, but as becoming-absent and becoming-present; processes that are sensibility dependent.

Type: Article
Title: From Death in the Ice to Life in the Museum: Absence, affect, and mystery in the Arctic
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Publisher version: https://journals.sagepub.com/home/epd
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Geography
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10106858
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