Arctic Archives: From Ethnographic Documentation to Climate Change, Environmental Justice, and Indigenous Rights

by Scott MacKenzie (Queen's University, Ontario) and Anna Westerstahl Stenport (Georgia Institute of Technology)

Abstract: Over the last five years, we have uncovered a range of Arctic filmmaking that seeks to challenge homogenous notions of the Arctic in both popular and political culture, thereby foregrounding both the area’s heterogeneity and shared interests. We have examined the holdings of over forty archives with Arctic moving images. In the 115 years of Arctic moving images, it is often the case that there is only one extant copy of a particular work. While this is not particular to the Arctic, it does function as an acute limit case, because of a) the size of the Global Circumpolar North and b) because of the diverse nation states, organizations and individuals who have produced images there. The reasons to preserve these works have drastically changed over time. For example, while some films first served to document ‘exploration’, many now function, in light of various Truth and Reconciliation Commissions, as works to be repatriated as visual document to Indigenous peoples, through refracted, settler, lenses. In other cases, such as Bill Morrison’s Dawson City: Frozen Time, one sees how the environment itself remediated films frozen in the tundra.

Scott MacKenzie is Associate Professor of Film and Media, Queen’s University.

Anna Westerstahl Stenport is Chair and Professor of the School of Modern Languages, Georgia Institute of Technology.