Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society
History and museums
The Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society is a small museum in the town of Hammerfest, Norway. The significance of the polar bear is that this animal is the town's mascot and heraldic crest.
For all its remoteness, Hammerfest has a long history as a trading port, and Isbjørnklubben as it is called in Norwegian - meaning simply Polar Bear Club - sets out to commemorate this. In the museum's single room are a variety of mementos of the early life of Hammerfest, including a profusion of stuffed animals, early Arctic hunting, traveling and camping equipment, and a gallery of photographs, paintings, drawings and writings of and from the town's history. The depict the town as it was in previous centuries, showing that as far back as the seventeenth century CE, this tiny town was a nexus for travelers and traders in the far north and a meeting point for the isolated people of North Norway, traders sailing up from southern Europe and hunters and traders coming west from the Arctic Ocean and Russia.
Founded in 1963 by two local businessmen, the Polar Bear Club is not particularly ancient. Primarily, it is a somewhat jokey amenity for tourists. Although entrance to the actual museum is for a nominal charge, visitors are encouraged to join the Society, which is rewarded with a membership pack, the contents of which include a certificate, a sticker, a hat, a membership card and a lapel pin. Since the only way to join is in person at the museum, this pin signifies as proof of visiting this remote place.