Scots In The Canadian Fur Trade Explored At Marischal Museum

By 24 Hour Museum Staff | 28 February 2008
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photo of a fur trimmed Inuit style coat with embroidery

A fur trimmed parka from the exhibition. Private collection. Photograph by John McIntosh

In the late 18th and early 19th century, the Hudson’s Bay Company in Canada looked upon the fishing and farming communities of north-east Scotland as recruitment grounds for new clerks to work in the fur trading business.

Now the Marischal Museum in Aberdeen is looking at the links between the two countries forged by this trade.

“Scots were regarded as hardy, reliable and adaptable,” explained exhibition co-curator Dr Alison Brown, “and many young men were drawn to the fur trade by the prospect of adventure and a love of the outdoors.”

The Hudson’s Bay Company was the largest of the fur trading enterprises, and the new exhibition draws upon artefacts loaned by local families with connections to the company, including photographs, Inuit and Northern Cree pieces, as well as the museum collection.

photo of a woman with a suede coat and small bone like artefacts

Dr Alison Brown with some of the artefacts. Courtesy Marischal Museum

The exhibition is one part of a new study into relationships between Scots and Aboriginal people in the Canadian fur trade between about 1870 and 1930, being carried out at the University of Aberdeen. The display is an interesting collection, even if you aren’t too interested in the academic side, with beadwork clothing and fur lined coats that conjure a culture from harsh climes.

The wider project has brought together Aboriginal artists, historians and museum staff to discuss how the collection can be used in educational projects, and a new website about the relationships between the Scots and Orcadians who travelled so far from home, and the Aboriginal people who made the objects and garments is now being created.

“This exhibition and the forthcoming website will provide opportunities to make the fascinating carvings, beadwork and family heirlooms, which have been the focus of our research, available to a wider audience,” said co-curator Dr Nancy Wachowich.

Dr Brown is still keen to hear from families in the area with fur trade artefacts and photographs. Contact her on 01224 274 355 or email alison.brown@abdn.ac.uk.

This is an exhibition preview. If you’ve been to the show, why not let us know what you think?

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