Explore Arctic Kayaks Virtually at the Arctic Museum

By Bowdoin News
Visitors to the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum, on the Bowdoin College campus, frequently comment on the full-sized kayak that has been displayed high on a wall in the gallery since the museum opened in 1967. Now, for the first time, the kayak is the center of attention in the museum’s newest exhibit, Kajak!

The historic Labrador Kajak (the spelling is in the Nunatsiavut dialect of Inuktitut) was the inspiration for the exhibit, especially since staff recently uncovered the vessel’s history.

The now fragile Kajak was purchased in 1891 near Hopedale, Labrador (Nunatsiavut), by members of the Bowdoin College Scientific Expedition to Labrador, and presented to the college by its leader, professor Leslie Lee.

One section of the exhibit focuses on the Kajak and a full-sized replica of it, made expressly for the museum by Nunatsiavut kayaker Noah Nochasak and local kayak builder Fred Randall.

The exhibit also features a variety of kayaks from across the Arctic, with many highly detailed models from Alaska, Canada, and Greenland on display.

A variety of tools and weapons used by a hunter in a kayak show how kayaks were an integral part of Inuit hunters’ equipment, while historic photographs and motion picture film highlight the skills required to use these skin-on-frame boats.

Kajak! exists as both a physical exhibit and an expanded virtual exhibit. While the museum’s galleries remain closed for now, the online exhibit is always open and includes additional media and family-friendly activities.

According to the exhibit curator Genevieve LeMoine, there are many exciting features to explore in the online version.

“The best part of putting this exhibit together was working with Noah and Fred as they created the replica," says LeMoine.

"But it has also been interesting to convert what was originally planned as a physical exhibit to one that would be compelling online. I hope we have succeeded!”

Kajak! can be found on the museum’s webpage.

Announcements regarding programming built around the exhibit and reopening plans (when we know them) will be found there as well. For more information, contact the museum though the webpage or by calling (207) 725-3416.

The exhibit was produced with the support of the museum’s Janet and Russell Doubleday Endowment. Construction of the replica was funded by grants from the Oak Foundation and the Kane Lodge Foundation, Inc.