Exibit showcases finds from Franklin’s lost ship

Jessica Kenny, Centretown News
Artifacts from the recent discovery of HMS Erebus, one of the lost ships of the Franklin expedition, will be on display at Library and Archives Canada until February.
The walls of the Library and Archives Canada lobby have been transformed into the deck of Sir John Franklin’s once-lost ship, as pop-up panels with images of HMS Erebus stand around artifacts from the vanished 19th-century expedition like sails in the wind.

In September, Parks Canada’s discovery of Franklin’s ship, Erebus, received world-wide attention. The exhibition, Echoes in the Ice: the Search for Franklin’s Ship, opened its display shortly after the discovery and includes navigation equipment, medicine kits and winter apparel worn and used by members of the 1845 search for the Northwest Passage.

Echoes in the Ice is an updated version of a 2010 exhibit at the Canada and Science Technology Museum, which moved to LAC on Wellington Street in late October after the museum closed due to a mold infestation. 

LAC’s head of media relations, Richard Provencher, says the partnership with the museum is a great example of teamwork between two Canadian institutions for the “acquisition, preservation and diffusion of knowledge.” Provencher says the exhibit is also a great opportunity for the national archive to showcase its collection of rare sketches from naval officer, artist and companion of Franklin, Sir George Back, who travelled to the Arctic in the 19th century.

A member of the museum team, Olivier Bouffard, says that the partnership with LAC helps fill in a few of the blanks left behind from the 1845 expedition. “It’s sort of the unraveling of a long standing mystery,” he says.

“When the expedition disappeared for years, people had absolutely no idea what happened to these people. No one heard from them and no one knew what happened to them.” 

Franklin was involved in over several expeditions to the Canadian Arctic that helped to map large stretches of coastline. He is best known for leading the 1845 expedition to find a sea route that would make trade possible between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. After sailing for more than a year, Franklin and his crew were forced to abandon their two ships, Erebus and Terror, after getting trapped in the Arctic ice. The explorers attempted to continue their trek south by foot, but they eventually perished.

After an underwater archeologist team from Parks Canada discovered Erebus, the museum realized it needed to update its Franklin exhibit and find a facility that would showcase the display to the public. Bouffard says that the discovery makes the exhibit at LAC even more timely because it emphasizes how difficult the Arctic has been to explore.

“It took a very long time to figure out what really happened . . .  It was a very difficult environment where this huge discovery was only made today by our cutting edge technology,” says Bouffard. 

The exhibit has been updated with pictures of Erebus and its current underwater state. One of the sections in the display highlights the navigation technology that was used in Franklin’s time and compares it to technology that is used today. 

“So we have both modern and contemporary artifacts of that era to illustrate the difference in what was considered cutting edge for Arctic exploration back than and what constitutes cutting edge Arctic exploration today,” says Bouffard.
The exibit will run until Feb. 20.