Campus News

Arctic Museum Receives Grant to Explore Loan of Objects

Story posted April 02, 2003

The Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum at Bowdoin College has been awarded a $4,300 grant by the Museum Loan Network to explore the possibility of a long-term loan from the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

The grant provides funding for museum director Susan Kaplan, curator Genevieve LeMoine, and students Aimee Douglas '05 of Potomac, Md., and Jennifer Crane '05 of Plymouth, N.H., to travel to New York to examine the collection of Inughuit (Polar Eskimo) objects collected by Robert E. Peary and Donald B. MacMillan in Northwest Greenland between 1895 and 1917. The objects will be shown in an exhibit on Northern Greenland scheduled to open in March 2005 at The Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum.

During spring break, museum staff and students spent five days working in the collections room of the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) examining rare artifacts collected by Peary and MacMillan around the turn of the last century.

Peary was the first person to gather extensive collections of clothing, tools, and other objects from Inughuit groups in Northwest Greenland in the 1890s. In 1895 the AMNH acquired a large part of this collection. MacMillan and Captain George Comer added to the collection with objects they collected during the Crocker Land Expedition from 1913-1917. Together these objects make up the largest and most comprehensive collection of early historic material from the people of Northwest Greenland anywhere in the world.

Douglas and Crane had the rare opportunity of working "behind the scenes" at a large museum - the whole collection is in storage, with no part of it currently on exhibit. Working with Kaplan and LeMoine, they helped describe, measure, and photograph potential loan items, and participated in discussions about which objects would be most suitable for the upcoming exhibit.

Articles of clothing, hunting tools such as harpoons and lances, and household items such as bentwood bowls and skin buckets, are among the objects the Museum hopes to borrow. They will be exhibited along with objects from The Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum collections to explore Inughuit culture as it was transformed through contact with Euro-Americans between the 1890s, when Peary first began to work in Northwest Greenland, and the 1950s, when MacMillan made his last trip north and the U.S. Air Force established the Thule Air Base in the region.

Although the exhibit is still two years off, members of the Museum staff are actively planning for it. In the coming months, they will finalize a loan request, and apply for additional funding to pay for the cost of conserving and transporting the objects from New York to Brunswick.

The Museum Loan Network (MLN) is a national collection-sharing program funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Pew Charitable Trusts, and administered by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Office of the Arts.

MLN facilitates the long-term loan of art and objects of cultural heritage among U.S. institutions as a way to enhance the installations of museums, thus enabling them to better serve their communities. The MLN grant programs help museums respond to the increasing public demand for installations that are relevant to a range of age groups and cultural heritages, and to provide better artistic, cultural, and historical contexts for works on display. The MLN programs have led to the sharing of objects among different types of museums, fostering collaborations between institutions of varying size and discipline throughout the United States. More information on the MLN is available on their Web site at

The Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum is located on the first floor of Hubbard Hall on the Bowdoin College campus. It is open year-round Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sundays 2-5 p.m. The Museum is closed Mondays and national holidays. For more information call (207) 725-3416 or visit the Web site at

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