The new building housing Bowdoin College’s Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum has an elevator big enough to transfer large exhibits, including the taxidermied Arctic animals seen here from a second floor overlook. Mikayla Patel/The Forecaster

The Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum at Bowdoin College in Brunswick moved from Hubbard Hall into the John and Lile Gibbons Center for Arctic Studies when the center opened this May.

Genevieve LeMoine, the museum’s curator and registrar, raves about the impact of the new location on everything from exhibits to attendance.

“Our new galleries are about 50 percent larger and fully climate-controlled,” she said. “It’s better for the objects and gives visitors a better experience.”

The John and Lile Gibbons Center for Arctic Studies is electric- and solar-powered and was made with mass timber, to avoid burning fossil fuels.  Mikayla Patel/The Forecaster

In a good year, LeMoine said, the Hubbard Hall location might have seen 15,000 visitors pass through its doors. Since its move into the Gibbons Center, the museum is on track to surpass that, having attracted close to 10,000 patrons between May and September alone, and it can now accommodate as many as 700 visitors in a single day – an amount that the old facility just couldn’t manage.

LeMoine promises that Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum will offer “something for everyone” as it works to illuminate – and counter stereotypes about – a vast area that’s often seen not as culturally rich and historically significant but as cold, largely desolate and forbidding.

The museum is named for Robert E. Peary and Donald B. MacMillan, two Bowdoin College graduates who explored the eastern Arctic. LeMoine said the museum will continue to celebrate their contributions in a permanent display, while mounting other exhibits that focus on the whole of the North American Arctic, including its contemporary issues and art.


Two temporary exhibits, up until summer, are currently on view at the museum. “Iñuit Qiñiġaaŋi: Contemporary Inuit Photography” features work by five photographers from Alaska, Canada and Greenland. Brian Adams, one of the exhibit’s photographers, teamed up with museum staff to curate “Iñuit Qiñiġaaŋi,” the photos of which will be stored permanently at the museum.

In line with Adams’ vision for the exhibit, one of its walls contains many small photos – a format inspired by the Inuit tendency to fill a home’s wall with numerous framed pictures of family members. The “Iñuit Qiñiġaaŋi” photos, which reflect the museum’s current interest in showcasing photography by Inuit people (rather than that of outsiders), offer a multifaceted glimpse of contemporary Inuit culture. This comes through in everything from photos of Adams’ Native Alaskan villages to Niore lqalukjuak’s shots of spectacular scenery and wildlife.

The other temporary exhibit is a diverse collection of visual art titled “Collections and Recollections: Objects and the Stories They Tell.” It aims to “trace the growth of the Arctic Museum’s collection through planning and serendipity and also highlight stories from the collection, with appreciation of the museum’s many donors and collaborators,” according to the museum’s website.

LeMoine proudly plugged the craftsmanship of items ranging from prints to parkas, which, in many cases, have resulted in healthy sales outside the Arctic.

“It’s just beautiful to look at,” she said.

Ken Keuffel is an arts writer who lives in Brunswick.

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