In new exhibit, Iqaluit residents may explore the explorer
“This is a very relevant show for the people up here”
Iqaluit residents may delve deeply into Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen’s remarkable visits to the Canadian Arctic, at an exhibit of photos that opened Feb. 3 at the Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum.
Most of the photos date to the two-year period when Amundsen lived at Gjoa Haven, from 1903 to 1905.
There, Amundsen lived in the Inuit community, developing close ties and learning valuable lessons about surviving in the Arctic.
And the time he spent living in Gjoa Haven is largely credited with giving Amundsen the skills he needed in 1911 to become the first explorer to reach the South Pole.
Geir Kløver, director of the Fram Museum in Norway, traveled to Iqaluit for the opening of the exhibit on Feb.3.
The Fram Museum houses the polar ships Fram and Gjoa, used by Amundsen in his explorations of the North.
Kløver, also a a leading expert on Amundsen, gave a lecture to Iqaluit residents Feb. 4 at the Unikkaarvik Visitors Centre.
At the heart of a new exhibit is a collection of lantern slides made from photographs that Amundsen took in Gjoa Haven.
The slides, once believed to be lost, were found in the attic of an Amundsen family member in 1986.
In 2006, the collection was put up for sale and bought by a private Norwegian collector, who agreed to donate all publishing rights to the museum.
Original versions of photos are kept at the National Library of Norway.
This collection is unique, because they’re the same as those used on lecture tours that Amundsen gave throughout North America and Europe, Kløver said.
“These tours were a very popular form of entertainment,” Kløver said. “Amundsen would go on these lectures, sell tickets and a large portion of that would go into his pocket.”
The introduction of lantern slides in 1849, 10 years after the invention of photography, allowed photographs to be viewed in an entirely new format.
As a transparent slide projected onto a surface, each photograph could be seen by a large audience.
This expanded the usefulness of photography, changing it from an intimate medium to one that was suited for entertainment and education.
But the slides themselves are fragile and costly to ship and display.
For this exhibit, the images were reproduced on large canvas panels that don’t require expensive shipping or insurance costs, Kløver said.
The Norwegian embassy in Ottawa paid most of the cost of mounting the show, including the cost of sending Kløver to the opening in Iqaluit, Brian Lunger, manager of the Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum said.
“This is a very relevant show for the people up here,” Lunger said. “Its always wonderful to be able to connect with other museums and heritage centres, especially throughout the circumpolar world.
Last June, Kløver visited Gjoa Haven with the exhibit, leaving copies of the photos with the community.
“I had the opportunity to sit down with the community and go through the plates picture by picture,” Kløver said.
“They instantly recognized the faces, and picked out things they found humorous, like the fact one of the crew members was proudly displaying his Inuit winter clothing but that he is wearing summer boots.”
The exhibit remains on display at the Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum until March 19.
The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.