'Icy Embellishments' focus of Oct. 30 talk by noted cultural historian
Robert McCracken Peck
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4:15 p.m., Oct. 13, 2008----The many articles on Arctic exploration that appeared in books, newspapers and magazines throughout the 19th century testify to the public's fascination with the Far North. But there is another equally tangible and often overlooked realm of popular culture that celebrated Arctic travel and helped bring it into the daily lives of armchair adventurers.

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On Thursday, Oct. 30, from 5-6:30 p.m. in 127 Memorial Hall at the University of Delaware, Robert McCracken Peck, curator of art and artifacts and senior fellow at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, will discuss how Arctic enthusiasm manifested itself in everyday items of material culture, from children's card games and Arctic-inspired tableware, to spectacular presentation silver pieces depicting icebergs, polar bears and Inuit hunters.

The lecture, “Icy Embellishments: Arctic Exploration and the Decorative Arts,” is the latest offering in UD's William S. Carlson International Polar Year Events, a series of public lectures, seminars, and exhibitions that celebrates the University's president from 1946-1950, who also was an Arctic explorer, and UD's significant polar research in the world's fourth International Polar Year. The global scientific and education program began in March 2007 and concludes in March 2009.

Using images of rarely seen objects from private and public collections, Peck will review the changing nature of Arctic exploration--from the early search for the Northwest Passage, to the search for the lost Franklin expedition, to the quest for the North Pole--and its impact on the arts and material culture of the day.

An alumnus of the University of Delaware's Winterthur Program, Peck wrote about “Icy Embellishments” in the February 2007 issue of Antiques magazine and organized and hosted an international conference on the history of Arctic exploration at the Academy of Natural Sciences in May 2008.

Besides writing for a variety of popular and scholarly magazines, Peck is the author of several books including the Land of the Eagle: A Natural History of North America (1990), the companion volume to an eight-part BBC/PBS television series of the same title that deals with the discovery and exploration of America from a natural history point of view.

A member of the Explorers Club, which has honored him with its Explorers Award, Peck also has traveled widely on behalf of the academy, accompanying research expeditions in Nepal, Ecuador, Venezuela, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Siberia, Guyana and Mongolia.

In 1989, a new species of South American frog was named in his honor. In 2006, in recognition of his knowledge of the cultural and natural history of Mongolia, Peck was invited by President George W. Bush to represent the United States at ceremonies marking Mongolia's 800th birthday in Ulaan Baatar.

The lecture is co-sponsored by the Center for Material Culture Studies and the Department of Art Conservation. A reception will follow the lecture in the dome (third floor) of Memorial Hall.

Register online for the free event at [www.pr.udel.edu/fmi/xsl/polar/register.xsl].

The lecture also will be Webcast live at [www.udel.edu/UMS/udlive/archives.html] and simulcast into UD Second Life. A podcast will be available within a few days after the lecture.

Article by Tracey Bryant

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