Arctic Studies

Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum & Arctic Studies Center Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum & Arctic Studies Center

Arctic Studies

Arctic Studies Program

Bowdoin College is located along the North Atlantic coast, a region extending into the Arctic and characterized as one of the most dynamic and challenging environments in the world. For over 10,000 years small-scale societies (e.g., Inuit, Norse, Innu, Sámi, Wabanaki, Euro-American settlers) have made a living along northern North Atlantic shores. They have responded and reacted to shifts in the climate and environment, and to local, regional, and global events and cultural developments. By studying their successes and failures we can better understand complex human-environment-climate relationships and identify attitudes, strategies, and skills that make a people resilient and resourceful –characteristics we need to nurture in future generations.

Currently, the Arctic and North Atlantic region is experiencing an unprecedented rate of change. Global warming is transforming northern environments with local and global ramifications. Climate and environment changes, and a difficult history of colonization of indigenous groups, have triggered a cascading series of social, economic, political, and environmental challenges throughout the region. There is an urgent need to better understand the Arctic and North Atlantic environmental and social systems so we can determine ways to mitigate problems and responsibly develop opportunities.

Given the significance of what is happening in the region and at the College’s doorstep, from rising ocean temperatures to increased investment in Portland’s port infrastructure, Bowdoin endeavors to prepare young people for northern-oriented careers. With its 158-year history of involvement in Arctic and North Atlantic research, important northern collections, and dedicated faculty, the college is well positioned to carry out northern-focused programs.

Program Goals

The Arctic Museum and Arctic Studies Center supports initiatives aimed at increasing our understanding and appreciation of the workings of Arctic and North Atlantic climatic, environmental, and social systems and their interrelationships. The program does this by:

  • conducting and encouraging discipline-based and interdisciplinary research;
  • collaborating with northern institutions and individuals in research and outreach;
  • delivering thought provoking, high quality exhibitions and outreach programs backed by excellent research;
  • and facilitating and conducting workshops and symposia.

Undergraduates are participants in these endeavors, through northern-focused coursework and hands-on experiences in the field, laboratories, and museums. All programs contribute to the general education of Bowdoin undergraduates while preparing interested students for northern-focused careers in a diversity of arenas.

Faculty with specific Arctic and North Atlantic interest are found throughout the college. A concentration in Arctic studies, offered through departments and the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum & Arctic Studies Center, provides students with opportunities to explore cultural, social, and environmental issues involving Arctic lands and peoples. Students interested in the Arctic are encouraged to consult with Susan Kaplan, Director of Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum and Arctic Studies Center, in order to plan an appropriate interdisciplinary program, involving course work and field work at Bowdoin and in the North.