A new exhibit highlighting the art of scrimshaw is now open at the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum, Bowdoin College. “Scrimshaw: Selections from the Peter C. Barnard Collection” can be viewed in the Arctic Museum’s foyer in Hubbard Hall through April 27, 2014.
Many 19th and early 20th-century whalers carved intricate designs on whales’ teeth, walrus tusks, and whale bone in their spare time as they sailed to and from Arctic and Pacific whaling grounds. They created a variety of practical and amusing objects using the tools and materials at hand. The late Peter C. Barnard (Bowdoin Class of 1950) began collecting scrimshaw shortly after he graduated and compiled an impressive representation of the whalers’ occupational art form. His widow, Danuta Barnard, donated his collection to the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum, honoring his wishes and adding to his legacy at Bowdoin where he served as Alumni Secretary from 1957 to 1966 and Secretary of the Board of Trustees and Overseer between 1977 and 1991.
Among the twenty pieces from this collection currently on display at the Arctic Museum are classic engraved teeth, walking sticks, a corset busk, sewing and crocheting tools, and a combination cribbage board and domino set.