Shackleton is best known for his 1914 expedition to cross Antarctica which ended in failure when his ship "Endurance" was crushed by ice. The subsequent rescue mission became the stuff of legend when the 28-man crew drifted for months on ice before making it to dry land. Still 800 miles from safety, a smaller group led by Shackleton rowed in the freezing tempest to reach South Georgia where they endured a 36-hour trek across icy and mountainous terrain to reach help. All crew survived the ordeal.
Photographs and diaries from the expedition as well as his contributions to the ship "newspaper", the South Polar Times, are among artefacts featured.
Letters to his wife, charts, his red and gold sledging flag and diaries from the time he served under that other famous polar explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott, are on display.
The institute also has permanent exhibitions featuring items from Scott's polar expeditions and modern exploration equipment.
"Shackleton: The hidden Collections" runs until the end of November.
Admission to the museum, part of the University of Cambridge, is free. Tel: 01223 363562; www.spri.cam.ac.ukmuseum