An Arctic Landscape Revisited: Re-discovering a 130-year old Smithsonian Collection and making it relevant to today’s Arctic peoples

Date/Time: Wed 13 Sep / 12:30 pm - 2:00 pm

Location: Monash University, Room E561, (Menzies Building) 20 Chancellors Walk, Clayton Campus

Monash Indigenous Studies Centre (MISC)

Research Seminar

An Arctic Landscape Revisited: Re-discovering a 130-year old Smithsonian Collection and making it relevant to today’s Arctic peoples

In this presentation we look at a story that started in 1882 when a talented young Smithsonian naturalist called Lucien McShan Turner took up residence at a tiny Hudson’s Bay Company trading post called Fort Chimo in the Eastern Canadian Arctic region of Ungava Bay. Representing the first International Polar Year, his official task was to record the weather at this station for the US Signal Army Corp. In his spare time, Turner earnestly collected physical and material cultural items belonging to the Inuit and Innu people of the region, even taking some of the earliest photos of them and their landscapes. These items were shipped to the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C and have been studied and reviewed by researchers ever since.

Our story begins with the “discovery” of a manuscript written on Arctic mammals by Turner, which was seemingly unknown to curators at the Smithsonian. We discuss in this talk how the rediscovery of this manuscript led to a re-knowing of Turner’s Collection, and how we extended Turner’s original manuscript to become a book (Mammals of Ungava and Labrador, Smithsonian Scholarly Press, 2014) that incorporated Inuit and Innu perspectives on mammals in contemporary times, as well as our own accounts and understandings of human-animal interactions in the Arctic. Our presentation will feature some of Turner’s characteristic ways for describing mammals, along with legendary stories of mammals that were relayed to us by Inuit hunters while undertaking fieldwork in the Arctic where Turner was once based.

Dr Scott Heyes is an Associate Professor of Cultural Heritage in the Faculty of Arts and
Design at the University of Canberra, Australia. He holds research associate positions at the Smithsonian Institution’s Arctic Studies Center in Washington D.C., and at Trent
University’s Frost Centre for Canadian and Indigenous Studies in Canada. His research and
teaching interests centre on Indigenous knowledge systems and Indigenous heritage issues in Indigenous Australia, Fiji, and the Inuit homelands of Arctic Canada. He is currently working on design, mapping and oral history projects in these three regions in partnership with Indigenous communities and organisations.

Dr Kristofer Helgen is Professor in the School of Biological Sciences and Environment Institute at the University of Adelaide. From 2009 to early 2017 he was head of the Division of Mammals at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. He holds professorial or honorary appointments at the American Museum of Natural History, Australian Museum, Bishop Museum, George Mason University, National Geographic Society, South Australian Museum, and the ARC Centre for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage (CABAH). His research, undertaken in more than 50 countries, focuses especially on fieldwork and research in museum collections to document the richness of life, contribute to important problems in biomedicine, and explore global change, including changes in indigenous use and knowledge of environments and wildlife.


For further information, please contact Vanessa Fleming-Baillie on 990 52929

Wednesday 13th September 2017

12:30pm – 2:00pm

Level 5, East Wing, Menzies Building
20 Chancellors Walk
Clayton Campus

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