The New Zealand Antarctic Medal:
WATSON, Mr Nigel John
For services to Antarctic heritage preservation
Mr Nigel Watson has been Executive Director of the Antarctic Heritage Trust (AHT) since 2000 and was Secretary General of the International Polar Heritage Committee from 2010 to 2018.
Mr Watson was responsible for the conception and implementation of AHT’s Ross Sea Heritage Restoration Project, launched in 2002 to secure five historic explorer bases and associated artefacts, engaging more than 100 international heritage and conservation specialists since 2002. He led completion of a major phase of conservation work on Ross Island, including Sir Ernest Shackleton’s 1908 base, Captain Robert Scott’s expedition base at Cape Evans and first base at Hut Point, Sir Edmund Hillary’s hut at Scott Base, and artefacts from Borchgrevink’s Cape Adare huts, all together encompassing more than 20,000 artefacts. The Trust’s conservation plans are considered best practice for cold climate conservation. He has driven global support for this project, raising more than NZD24 million for the work to occur. He has since steered significant discoveries during the restoration process to become further fundraising opportunities supporting the Trust’s work. He has created a network of significant global supporters, significantly contributing to New Zealand’s reputation globally in supporting the Antarctic Treaty. He was key to a partnership with the Natural History Museum in London. He has engaged younger generations through AHT’s Inspiring Explorers youth expedition and education programme established in 2015. He established partnerships within low-socio economic areas of New Zealand to enable young people to travel to Antarctica who would never otherwise have the opportunity. He led youth expeditions to Antarctica in 2017 and 2019. Mr Watson was a key driver behind a virtual reality experience of Hillary’s hut launched in 2020, recognised as being amongst best practice digital cultural heritage experiences globally.