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Expedition Arctic!

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--May 5, 2011.

larger_arctic-maps-crop.jpgAn epic story of Arctic exploration and discovery from a century ago is brought to life in a major exhibition to be presented at the Canadian Museum of Civilization until April 15, 2012.

Expedition: Arctic revisits the triumphs and tragedies of the Canadian Arctic Expedition of 1913–1918, which claimed the lives of 17 men—most lost to exposure, mishap or starvation—but which also added immensely to our understanding of Canada’s Western Arctic and the cultures of its First Peoples. In addition, the Expedition, sponsored by the federal government, expanded and defended Canada’s Arctic sovereignty.

“The Expedition is one of the most compelling stories in the annals of Canadian Arctic adventure and research,” said Dr. Victor Rabinovitch, President and CEO of the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation. “The subject is also very timely, given the current profile of issues relating to Arctic sovereignty, people, communities and climate change in the Far North.”

Expedition: Arctic was produced by the Museum of Civilization in collaboration with the Canadian Museum of Nature and features over 250 outstanding artifacts, including many on public display for the very first time. Among the highlights are tools and other supplies used by Expedition members; tools and clothing of the Copper Inuit; and a fascinating assortment of fossils and plants, mammals and birds. Also featured is film footage shot during the Expedition’s years of travel on sea, ice and land.

“This partnership with the Canadian Museum of Civilization underlines our shared commitment to increase public understanding of the Canadian Arctic,” says Michel Houle, interim President and CEO of the Canadian Museum of Nature. “The artifacts and specimens collected on this landmark expedition provide a scientific legacy and an ongoing baseline for comparison as we make new discoveries in today’s Arctic.”

The Canadian Arctic Expedition 1913–1918, inspired and led by Manitoba-born explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson, consisted of two parties. The Northern Party searched for—and found—previously unidentified Arctic Islands and carried the Canadian flag into the unexplored northwestern High Arctic. The Southern Party, led by Dr. R. M. Anderson, conducted scientific research along the Canadian Arctic mainland coast.

The Expedition’s greatest setback was the loss of the flagship Karluk, which was trapped and crushed by ice and sank off the Siberian coast. All aboard survived the January 1914 sinking, but many perished on the journey to land and during the desperate wait for the arrival of rescuers the following autumn.

Despite this tragedy the Expedition carried on, returning with crates of natural specimens and thousands of artifacts, sketches, documents, photographs, films and sound recordings. Most of the material was placed in national collections that today belong to the Canadian Museum of Civilization and the Canadian Museum of Nature.

Expedition: Arctic is presented at the Museum of Civilization from April 21, 2011 to April 15, 2012. A travelling version of the exhibition will then begin a national tour.

An exhibition produced by the Canadian Museum of Civilization in collaboration with the Canadian Museum of Nature.