Captain Comer and the Hudson Bay Inuit
Previously exhibited at Mystic Seaport
Discover Frozen In: Captain Comer and the Hudson Bay Inuit, Mystic Seaport's ground-breaking exhibition which explores the life of Captain George Comer of East Haddam, Connecticut, his extraordinary relationship with the Inuit and the challenges they faced living in one of the harshest environments on earth.
The exhibition features a full-scale reconstruction of Comer's winter deck house from his 1903 expedition aboard Era, as well as a reconstructed Inuit igloo, traditional clothing, tools, journals, photographs and actual voice recordings made by Comer and his Inuit companions more than 100 years ago. Authentic Inuit objects made of of ivory, bone, sealskin and stone are also displayed.
Captain Comer's whaling voyages repeatedly took him to the waters of western Hudson Bay in the Canadian Arctic. This cold, windswept region soon became his second home and he thrived there. Comer was particularly drawn to the native people of this region who had worked closely with American whalers for a number of years. He established a strong bond with them, and among them, he found an opportunity to pursue what became his passion -- the careful study and documentation of the Inuit culture.
"Comer dedicated much of his working life to the establishment of a bridge between two cultures, and he did so with great success," said Fred Calabretta, the exhibit's curator.
By 1905, Comer possessed an understanding and appreciation of the people of western Hudson Bay that was unsurpassed by any other outsider. Despite a lack of formal training he conducted pioneering fieldwork in Arctic anthropology, employing the use of photography, sound recordings, archaeology, written records and plaster life masks. Anthropologists, museum curators and scientists encouraged and supported Comer's work, as he provided them with a window to people they knew little about.
Comer's collections soon found their way into some of the world's greatest museums, including the American Museum of Natural History and the University of Pennsylvania's Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, both of whom are among an impressive list of lenders to this exhibition.
"This union of loan objects with Mystic Seaport's holdings is unique," Calabretta said. "For the first time, the Inuit clothing, tools, personal effects and mementos collected by Comer will be reunited with the photographs, recordings, life masks and stories of their creators. Such a striking representation of Comer-related materials has never before been assembled for public view."
By the early 20th century, Comer had become the world's foremost authority on the Inuit of Hudson Bay. His work had a lasting impact and his collections now offer an unprecedented view of traditional Inuit culture.
Images from top to bottom:
Topsail schooner Era frozen. Photo taken by Comer at Cape Fullerton, Hudson Bay, on February 4, 1901.
Captain George Comer (1858-1937) of East Haddam, CT.
An Inuit family in traditional clothing.
View more of the Captain George Comer collection. Click here