A rare collection of Antarctic artefacts will be on display for the first time as part of a national touring exhibition celebrating Australia’s connection with the icy continent.

Traversing Antarctica: the Australian Experience, was developed by the National Archives of Australia, in conjunction with the Australian Antarctic Division and the Western Australian Museum.

The exhibition marks the centenary of the 1911–14 Australasian Antarctic Expedition, led by Sir Douglas Mawson, and the achievements of Australia in Antarctica over the last 100 years.

Minister for the Environment, Tony Burke, today officially opened the exhibition, at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery in Hobart.

“Antarctica is the last great unspoilt continent,” Mr Burke said.

“Australia has taken a leading role in its protection since former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke joined forces with former French Prime Minister Michel Rocard to prevent mining of Antarctica 20 years ago.

“It is a significant place of cultural, historical and scientific value to Australians.

“It is also a place of real economic value, supporting jobs in Tasmania and around the country.

“The exhibition brings together a rare collection of items and expertise from various historical and Antarctic research institutions across the nation.”

Some of the original equipment and diaries used by members of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition are in the exhibition, as well as interactive displays on the frontier survival, animals, science and living in Antarctica today.

Minister for Freedom of Information, Brendan O’Connor, today urged people to visit the exhibition.

“This touring exhibition is an excellent opportunity for people across the country to learn about the strong links between Australia and Antarctica,” Minister O’Connor said.

“This exhibition has been developed to appeal to a wide range of visitors, from professionals to expeditioners, families and school groups, and I would encourage everyone to see the exhibition when it reaches their state.”

Traversing Antarctica: the Australian Experience opens at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery today and will tour nationally until 2014.