Arctic Museum Bids Farewell to Graduating Seniors

Story posted June 14, 2010

Every spring, Arctic Museum staff members regretfully say goodbye to the graduating seniors who have worked at the museum, sometimes for many years. This spring has been particularly poignant, with no fewer than six students moving on to a new phase in their lives.

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Joanna Caldwell, Kirsten Chmielewski, ZoŽ Eddy, Sarah Lord, Nga Tong and Alison Weisburger have been involved in a wide range of public and behind-the-scenes tasks for the museum. Each has made valuable contributions to the college's Arctic program, while also gaining important hands-on experience that will surely serve them well.

Chmielewski and Lord spent last summer working with Assistant Curator Anne Witty inventorying every artifact and looking for insect activity in the collection. They scanned historic photographs and documents as well. In the process Chmielewski and Lord learned how to handle and care for a broad range of collections from Inuit tools to exploration equipment. Both also worked as museum receptionists, greeting and orienting visitors and handling museum shop sales and public inquiries.

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Alison Weisburger '10 and Kirsten Chmielewski '10 by a packing case in October 2009.

Eddy and Caldwell were Gibbons Interns who worked with the museum and the IT department to create interactive components for Arctic museum exhibits. Visitors can see the result of Eddy's work, "Polar Pathways," on a touch screen in the exhibition, Northward Over the Great Ice: Robert E. Peary and the Quest for the North Pole.

Eddy's project allows visitors to follow Robert Peary on his many expeditions using maps, photographs and text from his own accounts of his work. Over the last year, Caldwell compiled biographical information on Inuit artists and prepared an interactive kiosk that will allow visitors to learn more about artists represented in the museum's upcoming exhibit, Imagination Takes Shape: Canadian Inuit Art from the Robert and Judith Toll Collection, opening this November.

Weisburger, who assisted the staff with 2008-09 Peary centennial celebrations and gave school children tours of the Arctic Museum exhibitions for the last two years, spent the summer of 2009 in Northwest Greenland working on Curator Genevieve LeMoine's NSF-funded archaeology project, when she reported on her excavation experiences in an audio blog.

Weisburger and Chmielewski spent the 2009-10 academic year helping LeMoine clean, catalogue and analyze the archaeology collections from Northwest Greenland. They learned to identify fragmentary remains of traditional Inuit technology as well as Western goods taken north by explorers and considered the types of historic and cultural questions one can answer using archaeological data.

As a result of extensive northern-focused classroom work and her museum and fieldwork experiences, during her senior year Weisburger undertook a year-long honors thesis project. Working with the Arctic Museum's photographic collections and archival documents housed in Special Collections, she wrote an honors thesis, "Stitching Together the Evidence: The Role of Inughuit Women on the Crocker Land Expedition, 1913-1917." Under the direction of museum director Susan A. Kaplan and LeMoine, she examined the vital role Inuit women have played on Arctic expeditions and why historians have neglected the women's contributions.

Tong, who also served as a receptionist, worked with Kaplan and Hillary Hooke '09, the current Arctic Museum curatorial intern, on the transcription of the journals of George Wardwell, chief engineer of the SS Roosevelt in 1905-06 and 1908-09. A number of these students also helped the staff unpack and catalogue the carvings and prints donated to the Arctic Museum by Robert and Judith Toll.

The Arctic Museum's new graduates are scattering across the world to work and study in Sri Lanka (Lord), South Korea (Tong), Iceland (Weisburger), Florida (Chmielewski) and Maine (Caldwell and Eddy). They join previous graduates who have pursued careers in law, teaching, journalism, film, anthropology and museology, and graduate work in a variety of disciplines.

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