About the Arctic Collection

This site is part of an ongoing project to research and document cultural objects from the North American Arctic that now reside at Oberlin College.

In 1889, Oberlin received 36 Arctic objects from the Smithsonian Institution in exchange for African materials collected by the missionary Erwin Hart Richards. The Arctic objects were collected by eminent Smithsonian naturalists, with the bulk of the collection coming from Edward W. Nelson and Lucien M. Turner, and individual objects from J. Applegate, William Healey Dall, Charles L. McKay, P. H. Ray, Dr. L. B. Sherry, and Lieutenant George M. Stoney. The scientists acquired these objects in the late nineteenth century from various Native communities in Alaska and eastern Canada, including from Yup’ik, Inuit and Innu peoples.

The Oberlin College Department of Anthropology and Mudd Library staff plan to work with a student Research Assistant in Fall 2017 to incorporate the Arctic objects into the online database for the Oberlin College Ethnographic Collection, a searchable hub for Oberlin's many ethnological materials that were once housed in the historic Oberlin College Museum.

The goal of the current project is to further research, document, and publicize Oberlin's collection of Arctic objects in particular, beginning with those obtained by Lucien Turner.

Further Reading

(in press) Margaris, Amy V. “Bark Blankets and ‘Esquimaux Implements from Alaska’: Revisiting a Historic Oberlin-Smithsonian Exchange.” Smithsonian Institution Arctic Studies Center Newsletter Issue 24.

2011 Margaris, Amy V. and Linda T. Grimm. “Collecting for a College Museum: Exchange Practices and the Life History of a 19th Century Arctic Collection.” Museum Anthropology Vol. 34(2):109–127.