Seals, polar bears, and double-tusked narwhals, oh my! One of the many exciting things to do in any capital city is go to their museums. Nuuk is no exception! The C4 IGERTs (+ C1 IGERT Lauren, now a Dartmouth postdoc) got to experience part of Greenland’s cultural history by visiting not only the Nuuk Museum and the Art museum, but also an ‘economy’ museum where we watched a few very skilled inuit people constructing their traditional outfits.
The Museum (a.k.a. Nunatta Katersugaasivia http://www.natmus.gl/) was established in the mid-1960’s and was one of the first museums in Greenland. The Museum is made up of multiple buildings and walks through different periods in Greenland’s history from the first settlements to industrialization. The exhibits show what every day life was like through displays of traditional clothing, modes of transportation and even types of food they were eating and hunting.
Beyond seeing the detail in the traditional Greenlandic costume, one of the most interesting things for me were the different hunting outfits, hunting boats and how they evolved with new hunting methods and with new animals being caught. The Museum even had a few of the outfits from arctic explorers- one was made entirely out of polar bear!
The Museum even has an impressive skull of a Narwhal with two tusks more than 2 meters in length!
Right around the corner from The Museum is Kittat the ‘economy museum’, or workshop, that specializes in making the traditional Greenland costumes. The traditional Greenland outfit is made of different seal skins, intricate beading, crocheted lace and wollen cloth. Kittat is a fully functional shop with the sewing room inside and the skin-drying racks outside. Not only could you watch some of the incredible beadwork and leather stitching taking place, but you could try your hand at sewing some of the leather pieces together- they make it look so easy!
The last museum we had the opportunity to visit was the Art museum, Nuuk Kunstmuseum (http://www.kunstmuseum.gl/). This museum (and over 300 paintings and nearly 500 figures) was given by Svend and Helene Junge Pedersen in 2005 and donated to the citizens of Nuuk. Among all of the fantastic art, Nuuk Kunstmuseum contains the largest collection of paintings by Emanuel A. Petersen (150 pieces). E. A. Petersen (1894-1948) was an artist from Copenhagen who traveled all around Greenland in the early 1900s painting, drawing and sketching the different landscapes. These paintings are some of the first forms of documenting the landscape (including glacier position!) of this area.
We even got a special treat at the last stop on our Nuuk museum tour- when we were talking with the curator, we found out she used to be a member of the Greenlandic government. She was in office when Greenland was granted self-rule (June 21, 2009) which gave Greenland more independence from Denmark. Hearing another first hand experience of that day and all of the new experiences that resulted was incredible!
I think we will all remember Nuuk with fond memories of the culture, museums and especially the people. Thank you Nuuk!