Inuit artifacts originally taken by Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen during his expedition of the Northwest Passage have been returned to Nunavut, Canada.
While Roald Amundsen was in Nunavut from 1903 to 1905 to learn about cold-weather living, in preparation for his historic South Pole expedition, and to traverse Canada's Northwest Passage, he also aimed to learn about the Inuit way of life. In doing so, he collected everyday objects that made up Inuit life, which caused tension between him and his crewmates. "They complained about it in their different diaries," Tone Wang, head of the exhibits department at the University of Oslo's Museum of Cultural History, commented to Postmedia last August. "They said 'he's going completely crazy: he's stuffing this tiny boat with ethnographic materials.'"
Upon returning to Norway in 1906, Roald Amundsen gave his collection of over 1,000 Netsilik Inuit artifacts to the University of Oslo's Museum of Ethnography, known today as the Museum of Cultural History. It is 16 of these artifacts that will make the centerpiece of the new Netsilik Cultural Centre in Gjøa Haven, Canada set to open this October. A collection of everyday tools, hunting equipment and clothing, the artifacts arrived earlier this year in July. While there have been ongoing talks about repatriation of these artifacts, the delay has been the lack of proper preservation facilities in Nunavut. At the new Netsilik Cultural Centre the artifacts, which are made up of a variety of materials including bone, antler, wood, metal, sinew and skin, will all be stored with the proper seal, climate and lighting.
Despite taking many artifacts, Roald Amundsen is rare among North American explorers in his ability to have created a long lasting positive connection with the Netsilik Inuit that continues to this day. Because of this relationship, while Norway continues with repatriation of Inuit artifacts, Nunavut is moving to repatriate their own Amundsen artifacts back to his homeland.
To learn more about Roald Amundsen's life consider reading his autobiography, My Life as an Explorer.
Source: Viking e-post, September 15, 2013.