Tradition and Transformation: Twentieth-Century Inuit Art from the Collection of the Hood Museum of Art

Posted on April 16, 2015 by Web Services Editor

Hood Quarterly, spring 2015

The Hood Museum of Art possesses over twelve hundred works by Native American artists from the Arctic and Subarctic regions of Canada, Alaska, and Greenland. A new installation now on view in the Kim Gallery showcases these collections, highlighting in particular two important recent gifts to the collection. In 2011, Jane and Raphael Bernstein donated nearly forty prints, drawings, and sculptures, as well as numerous books to the Hood Museum of Art and additional works of art to Dartmouth's Institute of Arctic Studies. In 2010, the museum received a bequest of Arctic objects from Evelyn Stefansson Nef, widow of the Arctic explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson. She and her husband made significant contributions to Arctic studies at Dartmouth over many years.

Most of the works in this installation were made by the first generation of Canadian Inuit artists to exhibit and sell their work to new markets in the south through art dealers and cooperatives. This production process created a vehicle for preserving cultural knowledge and sustaining tradition while innovating and creating new forms of expression.

This installation was also organized in recognition of the museum's project to digitize its Native American collections through a federal grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). Our goal is to present these newly digitized images and their accompanying catalogue information to a large audience through a Native American Arts at Dartmouth Web forum, which will include a searchable database of the entire Native American art collection. Three consulting scholars have already contributed improvements to our cataloguing of these objects, with another three visiting in the next six months. Each is a recognized expert in a particular area of Native American art and culture represented in our collection—Arctic, Northwest Coast, Southwest, Southeast, and Plains. This grant will make the Hood's holdings of Native American art more accessible to the museum's most immediate audiences—the Native American community at Dartmouth College and within the region—and to American Indian nations and cultural groups, as well as to a broader group of teachers and learners.

In early 2014, the Hood completed the digitization of its Arctic collections. Last May, through the IMLS grant, Heather Igloliorte, assistant professor of art history and research chair in indigenous art history and community engagement, Concordia University, Montreal, came to campus to research and evaluate these collections. The exhibition includes video clips of her discussing individual works on display.

We would like to thank the IMLS, Heather Igloliorte, and Arctic scholars John Houston and Nicole Stuckenberger for their contribution to the museum's knowledge about these works. This exhibition was also made possible by the Harrington Gallery Fund and an endowment from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

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Written April 16, 2015 by Web Services Editor