World’s First Museum of Polar Lands

IAS Prelims 2023

A new museum built by the son of a renowned French explorer aims to show “the beauty of polar landscapes” and illustrate the consequences of climate change.

The museum, Espace des Mondes Polaires Paul-Emile Victor, provides a visually compelling tutorial on these changes.

The centre in eastern France is the only permanent museum devoted to the Arctic and Antarctic in the world.

Built in the shape of a jutting iceberg and with 60 percent of its volume buried underground, the museum was conceived by anthropologist Jean-Christophe Victor — son of the French polar explorer Paul-Emile Victor — and Stephane Niveau, a naturalist.

Once inside, visitors are plunged into a world of intense white. Huge video screens show the ice caps amid the noise of an icy blizzard. Photographs, items from polar expeditions and video presentations — on ecosystems, rising sea levels, indigenous peoples and other themes —bring the polar environment to life and expose its vulnerability to global warming.

The Arctic’s surface temperature has risen by more than two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) since the late 19th century — double the pace of the world as a whole.

At the other end of the planet, scientists are most concerned about Antarctica’s western peninsula, sitting underneath a kilometre-thick ice sheet with enough frozen water to lift global sea levels by six or seven metres (more than 20 feet).

The museum highlights objects and documents from the expeditions involving his father, a pioneer of modern ecology who documented the polar wilderness. Paul-Emile Victor died in 1995 at age 87.