Though ownership still contested, Franklin artifacts go on display
Museum exhibition will return to Canada in spring of 2018
Artifacts recovered from the wreck of Sir John Franklin's Northwest Passage expedition are now on display at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, U.K.
Though the ownership of the artifacts is far from settled, their whereabouts for the foreseeable future is confirmed.
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The Inuit Heritage Trust says because the artifacts were found in Nunavut's internal waters, they belong to the trust and the Government of Nunavut, as per the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement.
The Greenwich exhibition, Death in the ice: the shocking story of Franklin's final expedition, runs until January. Then it will travel back across the ocean for an exhibition opening in March 2018 at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que.
Plans for when the artifacts will head back to Nunavut are still a bit hazy.
Nunavut does not have a museum equipped with temperature and humidity control, so Kownak says for now he's OK with the artifacts being managed by the Canadian Museum of History.
"In the years to come there'll be more consultations and meetings on how to manage these artifacts and where they go, so it's a continuous agreement with the different parties as to ownership and management of this exhibit," Kownak said.
The exhibition is jointly curated by the Museum of History and the National Maritime Museum, working with partners including the Government of Nunavut, Parks Canada and the Inuit Heritage Trust.
"Death in the ice" charts what is known so far about the voyage and the search missions that followed the disappearance of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror.
Little is known about what happened to the men on the ship, but excavation is still in its early days, says Claire Warrior, the senior exhibitions curator at the National Maritime Museum.
"We know that all the men died, but we don't know exactly what happened in the course of the expedition," Warrior said.
In front of the museum there is a flag planted for each of the men on the expedition, which descendants of the men have visited.
"Sometimes we put certain historical figures up on a pedestal, but there were 129 men on the expedition, it wasn't just John Franklin. These were men who had wives, who had family, who had parents who were all left behind wondering."
A single shoe
The exhibition opens with a single shoe that was brought up from HMS Erebus and is lined with seal skin, showing an attempt by the sailors to adapt to Arctic conditions.
The voice of Louie Kamookak speaking in Inuktitut accompanies the shoe. Kamookak is a historian from Gjoa Haven, Nunavut, who collected Inuit oral history and pointed researchers to where they would find the wrecks.
Touch screen panels tell the stories from Inuit oral history about the expedition that led to the recovery of the wrecks.
"Those contributions at the time were not properly recognized, but actually, in terms of the contemporary searches, Inuit oral history proved to be right all the time."
Warrior says the Maritime Museum is planning an exhibit about the United Kingdom's relationship to both the poles. It plans to have it in place after the Franklin exhibit returns to Canada.
Ultimately, Kownak would like to see the Inuit community closest to the wrecks, Gjoa Haven, reap the benefits of the find with a tourist site for cruise ships that visit every summer.
With files from Qavavao Peter, Michelle Pucci