Ivory, bone, and hide: Exploring the history, provenance and materiality of a 19th century Inuit dog sledge collected by Admiral Peary

Judy Jungels, Dan Kirby, and T. Rose Holdcraft


The Peabody Museum recently opened a new exhibition, All the World Is Here: Harvard’s Peabody Museum and the Invention of American Anthropology, to celebrate its founding 150 years ago. Featured in this exhibit is a selection of materials collected by Robert E. Peary for presentation at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, including an Inuit (Inughuit) dog sledge from northern Greenland.

Discussions with museum curators and an independent scientist led to the desire to identify original materials used in the construction of this Inuit sledge. Micro-samples were taken from hide, bone, and ivory components to identify the mammalian species from which they were derived utilizing a technique called peptide mass fingerprinting.

This article will focus on the history, material identification, and construction of this unique 19th century sledge from northern Greenland.

KEYWORDS: Conservation, Material identification, Peptide mass fingerprinting, Sledge, Inughuit

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2018 | Houston | Volume 25