THE DIAMOND JENNESS COLLECTION
Diamond Jenness was an anthropologist who participated in the Canadian Arctic Expedition (1913-18), a national team of researchers who travelled into Inuinnait lands to record the last unmapped area of the Arctic. For many Inuinnait, this expedition was their first encounter with the western world. Jenness lived with and documented the lives of Inuinnait for two years, collecting over 2500 ethnographic objects that catalogued a full spectrum of domestic, hunting and spiritual activities. Unlike many previous collections to come out of the Arctic, Jenness’ contained no ivory carvings, souvenir models, or materials that Inuit typically bartered in areas where they regularly encountered whalers, traders and missionaries. The Canadian Arctic Expedition opened the floodgates to other Arctic newcomers, and within two years of their visit, the material and social practices of Inuinnait had already started a process of rapid change.
A photo of Diamond Jenness during his time among Inuinnait, 1916. (CMH/Wilkins 51236)
The Diamond Jenness collection has become an important reference tool for contemporary Inuinnait to recover past traditions and skills. The Pitquhirnikkut Ilihautiniq / Kitikmeot Heritage Society regularly references the collected objects and writings of Jenness to revitalize important information that would otherwise be lost.
Today, the collection is cared for by the Canadian Museum of History in Hull, Quebec. The Pitquhirnikkut Ilihautiniq / Kitikmeot Heritage Society has a long term loan agreement with the Canadian Museum of History to exhibit part of this collection in its cultural centre.