Czigane – not the whole story
Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM)Czigane – Not the whole story
This story starts with objects in a museum collection. A black and white photograph of a dog. A skull. A collar. On display in a vitrine. In a room. A harpsichord, with lush landscape images. An elephant…A giraffe…A tiger.Big head, mouth wide open.This is one of 39 tigers.Shot by King George the 5th in 1911. Thirty nine. On a hunting party. Now all these tigers are exhibited in museums around Britain.
The skull of a dog. Its name: Czigane. One of the Siberian sledge dogs that took part in the British Antarctic expedition to the South Pole. The Terra Nova Expedition. Terra Nova. New Land. White. Icy new land.
No mention of Czigane in the logbooks in the archives of the National Meteorological Library and Archive. Or... Yes, one mention. On October 1911, the captain of the mission, wrote: Another of the best of the dogs, Czigane, was smitten with the unaccountable sickness.If he really has the disease...the end will be swift. Scott himself never returned from this mission, but Czigane did.
The race to the South Pole was high on the agenda of the British. Each of the 33 sledge dogs on the mission was officially named by a British school. To engage the public, through an early form of crowdfunding.
Czigane died of old age. His portrait, his skull, his skin, and later his collar, were donated to the museum. One of the sledging flags is in the Cathedral. Nearby the museum. Mounted in a glass case. On the wall in the south west corner of the church.
Why would a museum keep a skull and a collar, and display it too? Why does one mount a flag in a cathedral? Where is the skin?
Taking the story of Czigane, as point of departure, Bik Van der Pol developed a One channel 4K video work, 23 minutes, in collaboration with the children and teacher of St David’s C of E Primary School in Exeter and the Met Office, around objects ( a photo, skull, collar and skin of the dog) in the collection of the Royal Albert Memorial Museum. The film explores and unfolds the complex relationship between objects, images and language, ownership and naming, global trade and climate change.
Commissioned by Exeter Culture with support from the Met Office, Exeter Cathedral, and the Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM)