Photo exhibit captures early Arctic
It's no accident that the Bowdoin Outing Club is the largest
student organization on campus. Bowdoin has a long tradition of involvement
with and exploration of the natural world, and one of the College's most
notable alumni in that field was Donald B. MacMillan, an Arctic explorer
often paired in name with another Bowdoin explorer, Robert E. Peary (hence
the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum housed in Hubbard Hall at the head of
Currently, the museum is exhibiting a collection of MacMillan's photographs, entitled "Four Years in the White North: Donald B. MacMillan's Crocker Land Lecture." The exhibit, in the foyer of Hubbard Hall, consists of original prints from the over 5,000 photographs that MacMillan took during his trip to explore the then-uncharted territory of Crocker Land in the northwest Arctic.
A small portion of these were transferred from the original
hand-tinted glass lantern slides to prints for the display, and was made
possible by a New Century Preservation Grant from the State of Maine.
This exhibit illustrates a long established relationship with the region.
Said Museum Curator Dr. Genevieve LeMoine, "Bowdoin has a very strong
connection with the Arctic."
"My photographic equipment I considered among the most
important. A previous experience in the Arctic regions had shown me not
only that the popular conceptions of life and work in those regions was
entirely erroneous, but that mere pen and ink descriptions failed utterly
to convey an idea of the splendor and grandeur of the most savage, the
most fascinating portion of the earth's surface." And right he was,
in more ways than he chose to list. Not only did his photographs capture
the pristine beauty of the Arctic, they also served to capture the imaginations
of potential financial backers and helped secure the explorer's legacy.
MacMillan toured the country with his slides and discussed each briefly
with an adoring public. While the technology of the day made expedition
photography both challenging and cumbersome in the harsh Arctic environment,
it proved well worth the difficulty.
"One exciting thing about the exhibit is that the texts
[captions] are taken directly from MacMillan's lectures," said LeMoine.
"What he had to say about these is probably very different than what
we might say about them today."
"Four Years in the White North: Donald B. MacMillan's
Crocker Land Lecture" opens and closes with Hubbard Hall, 9-5 during
the week, 10-5 on Saturday, and 2-5 on Sunday, and will run through December.