Plymouth State Exhibits Photos of Arctic Peoples

September 2nd, 2005 by Adam

Plymouth State Exhibits Photos of Arctic Peoples

PLYMOUTH, N.H. – From October 2 – 30 an exhibit of late 19th century photographs of native Arctic peoples will be displayed at the University’s Lamson Library on Highland Street.

The exhibit, sponsored by the University and its Institute for New Hampshire Studies, consists of over 60 images photographed in 1886 throughout Alaska, Russian Siberia, the Aleutian Islands and along the north coast of Alaska to Point Barrow. That year, the U.S. Revenue Cutter Bear ranged from Siberia to the Pribilof and Aleutian Islands and up the west coast of Alaska. Lieutenant C.D. Kennedy of Revenue Marine Service served as the official photographer for the voyage. He captured on film fascinating scenes from the daily lives of these remote peoples. This is the first time that these photos have ever been publicly displayed.

The collection was given to Professor of History David Switzer of Plymouth State’s social science department in the ‘70s by the late Professor Charles “Cliff” McGoldrick of Littleton, N.H. He had come across the box of photos while renovating his home, and there was no indication of who had previously owned them. Recently the collection came under close scrutiny. It was apparent that the diverse collection of images documented a significant time in Alaskan history, the 19th year of its change of hands from Russian to the United States, and of contact between Americans and native Alaskans. Through a grant from the Gordon Foundation of New York City, a digital restoration and enlargement of the old and fragile collection was performed by the firm, Black and White Image of Portland, Maine.

Images from the collection include scenes of Inuits in groups and as individuals with items of their material culture such as dress and adornment, dwellings, kayaks and umiaks, as well as images of burial practices. Also included are scenes of American whalers taking part in the last days of the whaling industry. The vessels are identified and some captions include the names of the captains. Miscellaneous scenes include seal rookeries, Point Barrow, St. Michael’s, Russian churches and a Russian cemetery, and a group picture of members of a U.S. Naval exploring expedition.

The exhibition is curated by David C. Switzer, professor emeritus of history, Katherine C. Donahue, professor of anthropology-sociology, and Mark J. Okrant, professor of geography and tourism and director of the Institute for New Hampshire Studies.