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Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology




The early twentieth century saw an explosion of scholarly interest in the Polar Regions, and James Mann Wordie was at the centre of it in Britain. He personally led five scientific expeditions to Greenland and Canada in the 1920s and 1930s – each with a scientific agenda.


The 1934 and 1937 Wordie Expeditions travelled to the Arctic to conduct scientific experiments, excavate Inuit ruins, and study the lives and objects of the Inuit. Even in the summer months, sea ice could disrupt the best laid plans of expeditions and was therefore something to avoid, skillfully navigate – or curse. The Inuit respected the sea ice but in very different terms the sea ice being an essential part of the Inuit landscape and their way of life.During winter and spring, camps were established on the landfast ice. In the summer, when the ice broke up, the Inuit travelled inland to hunt caribou or used kayaks on open water to travel and trade. The expeditions met and traded with the Inuit at settlements, as well as on the sea passages.


This exhibition seeks to represent the points of interaction between the Inuit and the Wordie Expeditions, and their contrasting approaches to the environment they shared, however temporarily.


MAA would like to thank the following people and institutions for their generous assistance in loaning material for this exhibition:
Elizabeth Clarke, Peter Wordie, Alexander Dalgety, James Dalgety, Erik Paterson, Scott Polar Research Institute,
and the Trustees of the National Library of Scotland.


Arctic Passages Team:
Carl Hogsden, Imogen Gunn, Dr. Jocelyne Dudding, Dr. Robin Boast and Dr. Michael Bravo


This exhibition was funded by MAA, The Museums, Libraries and Archives Commission (Designation Challenge Fund), and The Smuts Memorial Fund.

Open March 14th to December 2008

Two million years of human history. One million artefacts. Countless astonishing stories.