Several events will celebrate Peary’s feat

Posted April 03, 2009, at 8:56 p.m.

The public is invited to attend a special symposium today at Bowdoin College that will take a close look at Robert Peary’s North Pole expedition of 1908-1909.

“Peary’s Quest for the Pole: A Symposium in Celebration of Peary’s 1908-1909 North Pole Expedition” will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Smith Auditorium, Sills Hall, on the Bowdoin College campus in Brunswick.

Presentations will examine Peary’s technological innovations, his debt to the people of the High Arctic, aka the Inughuit, and the impact of his expeditions on Inughuit culture, the Arctic careers of Josephine Peary and Matthew Henson, the contributions of expedition members Robert Bartlett, George Wardwell and Donald MacMillan, the motivations of Peary’s influential backers and hero-makers, and the history of the Peary-Cook controversy, according to the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum’s Web site.

The symposium is free and the public is welcome to come for all or part of the day. Registration is not required.

The Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum will be open all day Monday celebrating Peary’s arrival at the North Pole. Most of the exhibit will be at the museum for a year.

There will be other celebrations honoring members of the of the 1908-09 North Pole Expedition in early April as well. A graveside ceremony will be held Monday at Arlington Cemetery where Peary and Henson are buried, as well as celebrations in New York, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, in Peary’s hometown, Cresson, Pa., in Newfoundland-Labrador in honor of Capt. Robert Bartlett, and at the North Pole.

The Maine Department of Conservation, which owns Peary’s summer home, Eagle Island State Historic Site off the coast of Harpswell, and the Maine State Museum, which has numerous items relating to Peary and his family in its Peary Collection, will hold a brief commemoration at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Maine State Museum.

Among the items that will be on display during the event are a pocket compass belonging to Peary, a pair of snowshoes made by A.M. “Mellie” Dunham of Norway, Maine, a scale model of the SS Roosevelt, and a cane made for Peary by the Inuit from a narwhal tusk.

The Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum’s Web site, including a daily posting from the explorer’s journal, is at www.bowdoin.edu/arctic-museum. Information on Eagle Island is at www.pearyeagleisland.org.

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