Another staff favorite for today. This early Greenlandic carving of a woman carrying a baby in her amautik is a recommendation from our assistant curator, Anne. This statue “has an archaic design quality,” Anne says, “that looks almost modern to my eye.”
I, for one, love the angles and details on this figure - really lovely.
W. Elmer Ekblaw is a frequent star on this blog - Ekblaw was an important member of the Crocker Land expedition, and his family donated a large collection of his expedition materials to the Museum this past year. (This photo of him in Greenland was taken on the expedition between 1913 and 1917, striking a rather dashing pose.)
An unusual fun fact about Ekblaw: he invented Homecoming! According to the Student Life and Culture Archival Program at the University of Illinois, Ekblaw and a friend came up with the concept of a homecoming weekend in 1910 while seniors at Illinois. They agreed that a football game should be the “centerpiece” of a gathering meant to attract alumni back and proposed the idea to their student body council. Their end result was not unlike the many Homecomings that will be held all over the US this month.
Three years later, Ekblaw would be working in Greenland on the Crocker Land expedition…almost 100 years after that, Bowdoin student interns at this Museum will be working with his expedition material during their very own Homecoming week. History is really great sometimes.
So thanks for the idea, Ekblaw!
Happy 119th birthday to the “Snow Baby”!
In September of 1893, Josephine Peary gave birth to her first child while on an expedition in Greenland with her husband, Robert Peary. They named their daughter Marie Ahnighito Peary, her middle name after an Inuit woman in the community. It had been shocking enough to American society that Josephine, raised in an upper-class DC family, had accompanied her husband to the Arctic at all. A white child’s birth at the northern edge of the known world captured the popular imagination, and she became known as the “Snow Baby.”
Marie spent a good chunk of her childhood in the Arctic - she accompanied her mother on two major expeditions northward to track down her father, and was frozen in Payer Harbor off Ellesmere Island for ten months when she was seven. Josephine (and later Marie herself) recorded Marie’s early life in the Arctic in several popular books of the time. The Snow Baby again captured international attention when she was 16, as her father reached the North Pole in 1909, and the Peary family became celebrated worldwide.
In 1932, Marie (now married to Edward Stafford) returned to the Arctic to erect a monument in her father’s honor and to revisit the sites of her childhood. She continued to advise, write about, and research Arctic matters and her father’s expeditions for the rest of her life, and was awarded several honors. Marie died in 1978.
(Newspaper headline from the Dallas Morning News, 10-18-1903, page 42, courtesy of the Dallas Morning News Historical Archive, accessed with NewsBank/Readex America’s Historical Newspapers archives.)
Oh my goodness, what a gorgeous part of our collection do I get to share today!
These are knee-high sealskin boots from Greenland, created sometime before 1950. They’re dyed a wonderful coral red, and decorated with a leather mosaic of miniature pieces of dyed leather. (We also have one solo boot of an identical style, dyed chocolate brown.) They’re meant to be worn with elaborate embroidered and lace-trimmed leggings and traditional short pants made of sealskin. Women used to wear boots like this all the time, but now they wear them only for festive/ceremonial occasions.
These were very fragile, so I didn’t take them out of the box when photographing them…but I would have loved to try these on!
Today’s photo - our tupilaq drawer!
While the word “tupilaq” today generally refers to carved ivory figurines like these sold to tourists in Greenland, the origin of these sculptures is far more sinister. Traditionally, tupilaqs were objects created by shamans out of different animal parts (and occasionally human corpses). Buried in the ground or cast out to sea, tupilaqs were animated by the shaman’s spells, and became destructive spirits sent to kill a specific individual. If the tupilaq’s target was a stronger shaman than the original sender, however, the tupilaq could bounce back to destroy its creator.
The original tupilaqs were not made to be seen by anyone other than the shaman, but Greenlandic Inuit began carving representations of them to show and sell to curious tourists. Most of the ones we have are carved out of sperm whale teeth.
Obviously, these statues don’t have the same sinister power as their traditional counterparts, but they are quite eerie…
An ice island twice the size of Manhattan has broken off from Greenland’s Petermann Glacier, according to researchers at the University of Delaware and the Canadian Ice Service. The Petermann Glacier is one of the two largest glaciers left in Greenland connecting the great Greenland ice sheet with the ocean via a floating ice shelf.
Ohhhh dear. Hey, global warming.
(image and article via the University of Delaware’s UDaily.)
Here at the Museum, we have so many great objects that sometimes I get lost in the Collections Room! To help me find the gems in our collection, I’ll be polling each of the staff on what their favorite object is and featuring it here.
This Greenlandic necklace was chosen by Genevieve LeMoine, our curator. It’s carved entirely from one piece of walrus ivory - quite a feat considering those tiny links - by a man named Qavigaq.
This piece was originally accessioned to the Museum without an artist’s name attached to it. As luck would have it, Qavigaq’s daughters came to the Museum a few years ago to help our curators work on a collection, and identified this necklace as their father’s work - they claimed that the carving technique was a family secret!