Whitby library to celebrate the art and science of Captain Cook

Whitby library is inviting local people to delve into the art and science of Captain James Cook as part of the Cook 250 festival, a celebration of the 250th anniversary of the explorer’s first expedition to the South Seas in 1768.

Fiona Macdonald

North Yorkshire County Council’s library service successfully applied for £37,610 from the Arts Council to fund a series of projects culminating in an exhibition at the library to contribute to the July festival, which is organised by Scarborough Borough Council and local groups.

The work will be delivered in partnership with Scarborough-based art and science organisation Invisible Dust, the County Record Office and volunteers from Whitby and Great Ayton libraries.

The work with Invisible Dust will uncover the role of celebrated botanist Joseph Banks and artist Sydney Parkinson, who travelled with Cook to collect and document plants and animals. New artworks developed with local people will form an exhibition at Whitby library as part of the Cook 250 festival from 6 to 8 July.

Whitby is at the heart of the Cook story. He trained as an apprentice and learned seafaring and navigation skills with a local Quaker family in what is now the Cook Memorial Museum building and his ship, the Endeavour, was built in Whitby.

Artists Fiona Macdonald (pictured) and Ahilapalapa Rands and bestselling writer Natasha Pulley, author of The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, will work with library volunteers, the County Record Office, Whitby Naturalists, young people from Caedmon College, Eskdale School and Whitby Fishing School and the public to create new works that explore the scientific impact of Cook’s expedition.

Library volunteers will tap into the expertise and resources of the County Record Office to develop an exhibition on the theme of the art and science of Cook’s voyage.

Just before the exhibition, seven young people from Whitby will echo the experience of the explorers and travel with Fiona Macdonald and Natasha Pulley from London to Whitby on a tall ship. Before sailing, they will investigate the art and science of the Cook story through visiting the Cook exhibition at the British Library, the Royal Society and the Natural History Museum.

County Councillor Greg White, Executive Member for Libraries, said: “As we always say, libraries are about much more than books, and this demonstrates that wonderfully. Libraries are always keen to explore creative opportunities and appeal to new audiences. This is a great chance for people to get involved in a fascinating project, to learn more about Whitby and Great Ayton’s roles in this remarkable history and work with professionals to give their creative response to it.”

Alice Sharp, Director and Curator at Invisible Dust, said: “We’re very excited that artists Fiona Macdonald, Ahilapalapa Rands and Natasha Pulley are working with Whitby Library, scientists and local people to explore the international environmental significance of the art and science created by the Cook voyage; and Whitby’s place within this exciting story. The scientists and artists on board the Endeavour formed new ways of collecting and studying plants and animals that led to the establishment of the Royal Horticultural Society, Kew Gardens and the Natural History Museum.”

This story was published 29 May 2018