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February 2009 Eskimo Snow Goggles

Eskimo Goggles

The recent snowfall in the United Kingdom was the heaviest for over seventeen years and certainly caused its fair share of disruption. Comparisons were drawn in the press and media with how other countries cope with snow and ice, though some commentators felt that these were unfair since, they argued, it makes no economic sense to invest in specialist equipment that will seldom be used. This month's museum object comes from a part of the world where generations of people have become used to living with snow and have adapted their clothing to cope. Although it may no longer sound 'politically correct', the term 'Eskimo Goggles' is a recognised classification of eyewear amongst collectors and it does not specifically relate to any one snow-covered area of the globe. The pair pictured here were originally catalogued in our collection as 'rare' but a wider understanding of what is held by museums across the world has revealed that they are not that rare at all. For example the National Museum in Copenhagen has literally hundreds on display and presumably many more in storage. Our pair has a front made of bone with two narrow eye slits. The headband strap is made from walrus hide. Known as 'Iggaak' in North American native dialect, such goggles have been worn to protect from the glare on snow (and on water) for maybe 4000 years. They vary in styles so much because each native made his own, and because traditional craft techniques were used to produce them they can be almost impossible to date. They have been found across the Arctic Circle (including the Inuit tribes), Canada and Greenland. Just as modern inhabitants of those areas have swapped their dog-sleds for petrol-driven ski-mobiles so they have discarded this type of goggles in favour of Ray-Bans or similar designer sunglasses. Instead of adapting the natural materials they have readily to hand these hunting communities have become eyewear consumers like the rest of us.

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      1. May 2010 - Optically-themed currency
      2. April 2010 - The Spectacle of the Two Cultures
      3. March 2010 - Adaptive Eyewear for the Third World
      4. February 2010 - Masonic Badge
      5. January 2010 - Doctor Cupid
      6. December 2009 - Tactile Christmas Card
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      12. June 2009 - View Through a Focimeter
      13. May 2009 - Squirrel Collecting Box
      14. April 2009 - British Optical Association Wall Plaque
      15. March 2009 - IC Tonometer
      16. February 2009 Eskimo Snow Goggles
      17. January 2009 - Braille
      18. December 2008 - Rules at Christmas
      19. November 2008 - Pol-Rama Sunglasses
      20. October 2008 - Pharmacy Jar
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      33. September 2007 - A Jug Eyed Character
      34. August 2007 - Instructions for the Deaf
      35. July 2007 - I See A Nice Little Earner
      36. June 2007 - We wouldn't make this up
      37. May 2007 - The Case of the Unhygienic Contact Lens
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