Monday, October 25, 2010

"Echoes in the Ice" at Canada Science and Technology Museum

Canada's Science and Technology Museum is hosting an exhibition, "Echoes in the Ice: History, Mystery, and Frozen Corpses," which runs from now through March 20, 2011. This exhibition had its origins in a series of collages by artist and filmmaker Rik van Glintenkamp, illustrating various aspects of the search for the North Pole and the Northwest Passage. The idea was to combine these images with an array of original relics of Franklin's last expedition, educational videos, and the evidence for cannibalism. The resulting show offers an impressive array of set-pieces -- my favorite is a replica of John Hartnell's original grave-board on Beechey Island with a full-size image of his exhumed corpse -- along with a judicious selection of actual artifacts. A boot-heel, modified with nails, was once worn by one of Franklin's men, who -- never supplied for overland travel -- had to improvise their footgear and garments from materials on board their ships. Other artifacts include tins of Goldner's provisions and a barrel lid on loan from the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, along with period instruments such as sextants and maritime compasses. Texts and photos from the 1993 excavation of the site known as Ng-Lj2 were prepared with assistance from Margaret Bertulli and Anne Keenleyside, two of the lead archaeologists on that survey. Photos of skeletal remains, many of them showing the cut-marks made by men in their last, desperate moments, complete the grim picture.

As the press release describes it,
"The stories are told using images, audio-visual presentations, and artifacts. With the mandate to observe everything from “flea to whale,” the Franklin Expedition relied on the scientific and technological instruments of the day during their search for the Passage. Instruments and objects dating from the same period as the Franklin Expedition are on display, including navigation tools, and a brass-bound mahogany case containing a set of surgical instruments used for post-mortem dissections."
It's certainly an exhibit that will hold enormous interest for anyone who has been following the continuing story of our effort to understand the final days of this ill-fated expedition.