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Explorer Roald Amundsen's photos come to Iqaluit
Rare images of Gjoa Haven and Inuit from early 20th century part of travelling exhibit

Nicole Garbutt
Northern News Services
Published Saturday, February 11, 2012

Residents of Iqaluit were able to view a glimpse of Nunavut's past at the beginning of this month. Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen's collection of photographs made their way to the territorial capital as part of a travelling exhibition called Cold Recall: Reflections from a Polar Explorer.

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Roald Amundsen was the first explorer to successfully make it through the Northwest Passage. He credited much of this to his time spent with Inuit in Gjoa Haven. - photo courtesy of

Coming to Nunavut from Oslo, Norway's Fram Museum, the exhibition feature approximately 30 images from Amundsen's journey through the Northwest Passage from 1903-1906. Many of the images feature Inuit from what is now the Gjoa Haven area, where Amundsen and crew spent two winters during their expedition.

"I think people were just fascinated by the images," said Brian Lunger, manager at the Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum, where the exhibition has been set up. "Some of the people he encountered had never encountered non-Inuit people before ... Just a really fascinating glimpse into that time, I think both Inuit and non-Inuit were quite drawn into the photos. They are really something."

When the exhibit opened on Feb 3, Commissioner Edna Elias made opening comments and introductions. Also in attendance was the exhibit curator and director of the Fram Museum, Geir Klover.

He gave a very well-attended lecture on Amundsen the following day at the Unikkaarvik Visitors Centre, which provided an overview of Amundsen's life, from birth to death, focusing on his life as an explorer.

"It was a real treat having him here," said Lunger.

According to Lunger, the Iqaluit area was Klovers first stop in Canada.

After the exhibition opening, Klover travelled South to Ottawa to give presentations with Library and Archives Canada as well as meetings with the Museum of Civilization.

An interesting component to the exhibit is that the images are accompanied by Amundsen's lecture notes.

After his expedition was complete, he used these notes to speak and publicly present his findings in the hopes of fundraising for future voyages, such as his expedition in 1911 to the South Pole. Amundsen was the first explorer to successfully reach both the North and South Pole.

"It's his perspective on the voyage and an interesting way to look at the photos," said Lunger.

Most of the images in the collection are not actually photographs but lantern slides, a technique of image projection the pre-dates photography, in which images are projected from a glass plate. The lantern slides shown in the exhibition are the original plates Amundsen used when reporting his findings.

"Most of the images have been blown up quite large, so people can really get a good look at the details of them, the clothing from that time," said Lunger.

Amundsen was the first explorer to make it successfully through the Northwest Passage. He credited much of this to the time he spent in the Gjoa Haven area and the cultural learnings he adopted from the Inuit there, such as wearing furs instead of woollen coats. Lunger said Amundsen collected over 900 traditional objects, from tools to clothing.

The exhibit will be on display at the Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum until March 19, at which time it will move on to Whitehorse.

The exhibit will be travelling for the remainder of 2012, and Lunger hopes that it will be able to make a few more stops in Nunavut.

"It is quite a portable exhibition, and doesn't take much to set up. It could go in a number of spaces," said Lunger.

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