About “Arctic Visions: Away then Floats the Ice-Island”


The exhibit title Arctic Visions: Away then Floats the Ice-Island is drawn from the text of a core artifact in this exhibit, William Bradford’s elephant folio entitled The Arctic Regions: Illustrated with Photographs Taken on an Art Expedition.

Published in London in 1873, principally sponsored by Queen Victoria, an estimated 300 volumes were printed. Three are owned locally, one here at the Museum, one belonging to the Millicent Library in Fairhaven, and one at the New Bedford Free Public Library. Just prior to the exhibit opening the Museum will republish  this magnificent book in a more manageable format than the original 20” x 25” so you too can enjoy these spectacular photographs and fascinating text at your leisure.

Plate 2 from Bradford's The Arctic Regions

William Bradford, John. L. Dunmore, and George Critcherson, plate 2 from Bradford’s The Arctic Regions(London, 1873)

Bradford’s book recounts a three-month journey along the Western coast of Greenland aboard the Panther; a 325-ton sealing ship. Departing from St. John’s Newfoundland on July 3, 1869, the voyage was organized by Fairhaven artist William Bradford (1823-1892) solely for “purposes of art.” Accompanying him were distinguished Arctic explorer Dr. Isaac Israel Hayes and skilled photographers John L. Dunmore and George Critcherson. The voyage was commanded by Captain John Bartlett aided by his two brothers as officers and a “crew of hardy Newfoundlanders.” Unlike earlier Arctic journeys set on discovering the Northwest Passage, or undertaken for commercial profit, national prestige, or scientific curiosity, Bradford journeyed for art with sketchpad in hand.

This exhibit, using the rich Arctic and ethnographic collections of this Museum and through partnerships with other institutions and individuals, will explore the intersections between art, commerce, science, and exploration.

There are many individuals whose previous efforts built the foundation leading to this exhibit, none more significant than Emeritus Museum Director Richard Kugler. His scholarship, leadership, and collecting wisdom built the core of the Museum’s Bradford Collection.

With this announcement of our exhibit plan and related Arctic Regions republication the Museum wishes to acknowledge Bruce A. and Karen E. Wilburn for their vision and generous support giving life to both these endeavors.

Republication of Arctic Regions will be undertaken in collaboration with David R. Godine, Publisher.