Campus News

Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum Earns Grant to Conserve Slides Used by MacMillan

Story posted May 12, 2000

The Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum and Arctic Studies Center has earned a grant to allow the conservation and cataloging of hand-tinted glass lantern slides used by explorer Donald B. MacMillan.

The $10,500 needed for the project came from a grant by the New Century Community Program, a donation from the New York-based Kane Lodge Foundation, Inc., and Bowdoin College.

MacMillan used the slides when lecturing about the Crocker Land Expedition, his first major expedition to the Arctic. The conservation work began this month and should be completed in about a year.

These slides were made from some of the 5000 photographs MacMillan brought back from the 4-year expedition. To make the slides, a positive black and white image of the photo was hand-tinted and sandwiched between two pieces of glass. The conservation work is important because damage to the glass can cause the loss of the entire image.

The expedition began in 1913 when MacMillan sought to explore Crocker Land, first seen by Robert E. Peary when he looked west from Ellesmere Island, the most northerly island of what is now the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. MacMillan planned to establish a United States claim that would give the country access to what he believed would be Crocker Landís vast resources.

In 1914, MacMillan saw Crocker Landís snow-capped mountains spanning the northwestern horizon from Ellesmere Island. However, after days of travel across treacherous sea ice, MacMillan and his Inuit companions discovered that Crocker Land did not exist; it was only a mirage. MacMillan spent the next three years exploring Ellesmere Island and Northwest Greenland. The expedition returned to the United States with
more than 5,000 photographs, thousands of feet of motion picture film, specimens, and detailed maps.

MacMillan published a book about the expedition and traveled throughout the country lecturing about his work. The lectures, featuring hand-tinted, glass lantern slides introduced the American public to Inuit culture and the Arctic. These slides will be conserved, the collection will be catalogued, and the original lecture will be reassembled with the aid of MacMillanís detailed records.

The New Century Community Program is a collaborative initiative of seven state agencies. Funded by the people of Maine, the program provides matching grants to assist Maine communities in preserving their cultural resources.

The Kane Lodge Foundation, Inc. is named for Elisha Kent Kane, one of Americaís first Arctic explorers. Its membership is the same as that of Kane Lodge, No. 454, F.& A.M., a Masonic Lodge that counted Robert E. Peary and Donald B. MacMillan as members.

To learn more about the Arctic and MacMillan visit The Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum, located in Hubbard Hall on the Bowdoin College campus. The Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays from 2 to 5 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, call 725-3416 or visit the web site at

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