Collections Highlight E339340: Dancing Mittens

Dance Mittens
By Emily Cain

On November 29, 1927, this pair of dance mittens came to the museum from Tununak, Nelson Island. While they are made mostly of hide which has been painted red, they are also completely covered in loose hanging seal claws, puffin beaks, and feathers. You may think these accoutrements make the gloves seem a bit impractical, but they’re meant to produce sound! The loose attachment of keratinous materials (like beaks and claws) allows them to swing freely, making a dry rattling sound when the wearer dances.

If you’d like to see and hear acoustic gloves like these in action, join us for a free public screening of The Wolf Dance with Ted Mayac at the Mother Tongue Film Festival! The film, produced by the Anchorage Museum, focuses on the Messenger Feast, one occasion when Arctic peoples wear dance gloves like these. It will screen on February 22, 2018 at 7:00 pm in the Q?rius Theater at the National Museum of Natural History. For more information about the program, keep an eye on the festival website.

And as always, explore more great objects and images on our online database!

“Smithsonian Science How” Live Career Chat with Bill Fitzhugh

Bill career talkTeachers, introduce your students to a career in archaeology. Join us October 19 for a live online “Smithsonian Science How” text chat with Bill Fitzhugh about his job as an archaeologist studying culture and climate change in the Arctic. Learn more and register.

Date: October 19, 2017

Times: 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. EDT

Learn More and Register: http://qrius.si.edu/explore-science/chat/archaeologist-bill-fitzhugh  




Join us next week
Tuesday - Wednesday for the
Solstice 2017 celebration

UTC+5 at International Date Line (June 20)

(12 am East Coast/South America,
6 am Central Europe/Africa, June 21)


To all Solstice celebrators:

We're writing to you today with some last minute news regarding the 2017 Solstice celebration, which happens next week, June 20-21.

We are expanding on the 24-hour show from last year, which featured contributions from over 60 artists, scientist, musicians and more.
One of the main new elements this year is footage from the Smithsonian Institute about kayaks and canoes. These crafts were the first inventions that offered humanity a shot at expanding their horizon and traveling beyond their place of birth, opening up connections to a new world. We like to keep expanding on these inventions, and with each recurring annual Solstice celebration, we hope to be increasing the level of worldwide connectivity to share people's creativity, culture and innovative ideas. 

This year we are also celebrating on an online platform, through Google Hangouts, which is easily accessible through any mobile phone, with live hosting from a fabulous team at the Kapsakki Theater in Helsinki, Finland, where it all gets mixed and monitored.

We urge you to please take a moment to tune in to our website or the hangouts and check out the video, as well as some live contributions from New York, L.A., Beijing, Finland and more. If you would like to actively contribute with music, poetry or other creative work from a remote location, please let us know where you will be next week on June 20-21, and if a ndwhat time you would be interested to 'beam in' so we can have you on the broadcast schedule. Otherwise, we hope you will just take a moment to enjoy the show!

Looking forward to hearing back from you and to connect again.

— Charlie Morrow and the Solstice24 team


Solstice 2017 viewing 
Happy Hour - 17:00 - 18:00 
Tuesday-Wednesday, 20-21 June
24 time zones - 24 hours

www.solstice24.com goes live, start time
5:00 pm at the International Date Line
for 24 hours


If you are in Eastern Daylight Time is UTC-5. the first time zone is 17 hours ahead, so for you the program begins at 12 am in June 21.

Central Europe/Central Africa is UTC+1; for you the program begins at 6 am, 11 time zones ahead.

Time zones earlier than midnight June 21 EDT begin June 20.

The full program runs 24 hours. http://www.solstice24.com

With a video and audio stream that will be archived after on Vimeo.

Visible worldwide, wherever you are!

Please send this invitation to your friends and fans. Ask them to send it to theirs.

Great to take this spin together. 

Charlie and the SOL24 team

Charlie Morrow
Charles Morrow Productions LLC
New York  London  Berlin  Helsinki   San Francisco  Los Angeles  
Montreal  Washington D.C   Portland OR  Barton VT
+1 646 235 7228

Fulbright Arctic Week: Our Open House

By: Schuyler Litten and Chelsi Slotten

Last Tuesday, October 25th, we had the pleasure of hosting the Arctic Fulbright open house in the Ocean Hall of the National Museum of Natural History.  We welcomed 17 Fulbright Arctic Initiative Scholars from Canada, Denmark, Greenland, Finland, Iceland, Russia, Norway, Sweden and the US.  Their research was complimented by the Arctic Youth Ambassadors who joined us to discuss their experience of life in the Arctic. Representatives from Alaska Geographic, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Dartmouth College, University of Alaska Fairbank, the U.S. Department of State, the National Geographic Society and the Institute of International Education were also present.

Arctic Youth Ambassadors in the Ocean Hall. NHB2016-02527, Photograph by James Di Loreto, Smithsonian.

The program engaged visitors of all ages with current research on the impact of climate change on Arctic ecosystems and communities.  Over the course of 3 hours the public interacted directly with experts at 24 stations around the Sant Ocean Hall. Dr. Noor Johnson highlighted the need for more community-led research and involvement with offshore development in Canada, while Dr. Maria Tysiachniouk discussed how to balance the interests of oil companies and indigenous populations in the Arctic. Dr. Øystein Varpe talked about his research observing the relationship between Arctic sea ice and its effect on ecological systems. A few examples are the changes in growth rates among different species and shifts in hunting abilities or patterns due to increased light from receding ice. Itty Neuhaus, the only Fulbright artist, explained the development of her installation. It reflects on the nature of icebergs and their real representation of climate change along their symbolic representation of changes within ourselves. Her 3D printed models of icebergs were created to match their density and behavior in water. Dr. Tamara Harms discussed her research on Arctic freshwater ecosystems and the effects climate change has on areas with significant permafrost melt. Bill Fitzhugh the Director of Arctic Studies and Stephen Loring an Arctic archaeologist had artifacts from our own collections available for the public to interact with. They were used as teaching aids and examples of arctic culture and art.


Dr. Stephen Loring explaining traditional dress as seen on a doll. NHB2016-02556, Photograph by James Di Loreto, Smithsonian.

The importance of involving locals and arctic youth in this conversation was showcased by the presentation of several Arctic Youth Ambassadors who talked about a wide array of subjects relating to their lives in the arctic. One of the Youth Ambassadors, Willie Drake, presented on traditional Yup’ik housing. He discussed the traditional building materials along with functional and cultural uses in relation to their modern counterparts. Jannelle Trowbridge discussed her experience mushing (dog sled pulling) in Alaska with her family.


This open house contributed to the public understanding of the Arctic and stressed the need for continued research in the Arctic. The participation of so many scholars, professionals, and locals highlights the interconnected nature of the Arctic nations, both to one another and the broader world.  Many thanks to all those who participated, both as experts or visitors, and to the Fulbright Arctic Initiative for providing their generous funding of Arctic scholarship.

Free Public Lecture on Life and Death in the Arctic on January 15, 2016

Ernest “Tiger” Burch Memorial Lecture Series, 2016

Caribou, Cod, Climate, and Man: A Story of Life and Death in the Arctic

By: Morten Meldgaard, Natural History Museum of Denmark and University of Greenland

January 15th, 2016, 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. in the Baird Auditorium, National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C.



Far from being a remote planetary ‘deep-freeze’, the Arctic region today is recognized as a dynamic environment that has played a major role in the evolution and spread of animals and plants as well as the migrations and development of peoples and cultures. This presentation begins by investigating why Late Quaternary megafauna like the mammoth and the woolly rhinoceros went extinct while others like caribou and bison prevailed. What caused these differential outcomes? And what was the role of humans and climate in the dramatic changes that took place subsequently?

In order to explore these questions we will consider the history of caribou and caribou hunting in Greenland, where excavations at the important site Aasivissuit (“the Great Summer Camp”) reveal a close human association for several thousand years. Archaeological evidence reveals that dramatic caribou population crashes have occurred time and again, forcing major changes in the human economies. The key to human survival has been the development of broad-based, resilient resource strategies.

To understand what this strategy looked like and how people coped with fluctuating resources we examine the 4000 year old Saqqaq site “Qeqertasussuq” on a small West Greenland island in Disko Bay that has produced a wealth of biocultural information from the frozen remains of seals, fish, caribou and whales. Ironically, in spite of apparent abundance, Saqqaq suddenly and mysteriously disappeared. What happened? Did the marine resource base disintegrate? Did winter sea-ice disappear? Were other agents in play?

Given recent history, one cannot but wonder if humans had a decisive role in cycles of key resource populations over time?  Archaeology and history shows that humans have decimated many Arctic animal populations and that the scale of human impact has changed dramatically with industrialized exploitation. Instances of local prehistoric population decreases and extinctions have been replaced by massive over-exploitation that is resulting in possible irreversible changes in the populations of keystone species and even in the structure of entire ecosystems, in the Arctic and beyond.

Dr. Morten Meldgaard (Ph.D. in Biology, 1990, University of Copenhagen) is Professor of Arctic environmental history at the University of Greenland. He served as the directors of Danish Natural History Museum (2007-2014), The North Atlantic House (a cultural center for culture and art, 2000-2005), and the Danish Polar Center (1995-200). He conducted zooarchaeological research in Greenland and Labrador and published widely on historical ecology, animal fluctuation cycles, Inuit use of animal resources, and application of mtDNA and other genomic data in studying ancient human migrations in the Arctic.