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Greenland (Denmark) - Expo Paris 1931

Greenland (Denmark) at the Exhibition Expo Paris 1931
© Wilde World
Architect(s) : Helge B. Moeller

The Greenland pavilion at the Colonial Exhibition was intended to give the public an idea of what Greenland looked like and what Denmark had done there. The pavilion, designed by the architect Helge B. Moller, is situated on a tree-filled site, which has conditioned its irregular shape; its area is about 600 square metres. Access to the grounds is through an arch formed by two whale jaws. Outside the pavilion there is a bronze bear group by the sculptor Holger Wederkinok and two old Greenlandic canoes, a kajak and an uméak.

The entrance hall is dedicated to Thule, the trading post established by Knud Rasmussen among the polar Eskimos, the northernmost inhabitants of the earth. A panorama by Ernst Hansen and Sigurd Schou shows a winter camp of these nomads, with a snow hut, a dog sled and, in the background, the curious Umanak fjeld in the shape of a truncated cone. A large map shows the route of the expeditions that had the Thule Station as their starting point and economic base, including the so-called 5th Thule Expedition, which had the Arctic North America as its field of action.

In the middle gallery there are a number of paintings of Greenlandic landscapes and also a photograph of Captain A. Bergh, Deputy Commissioner General, who was in charge of the Thule Station. Bergh, Deputy Commissioner General, who died during the voyage to Paris. In this gallery there is also a display case containing specimens of Greenlandic furry and feathered animals.

The central hall is dominated by two panoramas, executed by Emanuel Petersen and Henning Scheel, one of which depicts an old-fashioned winter house; through a glass window one can look inside the house. A sled, harnessed with dogs and guided by a seal hunter, carries the product of the hunt, a seal, to the house. The other view shows a summer camp in a fjord landscape, with the sealskin tent and the kajak. In the hall there are two large relief drawings of the settlements Godthaab and Julianehaab, executed by Greenlanders, several models of boats and the crest of the Royal Greenland Trading Company, a white bear on a blue background; on one wall there are Greenlandic products on display: fox, bear, seal and reindeer skins, walrus and narwhal teeth, eider skin blankets, seal and shark oil, etc. On the opposite wall there are some paintings depicting scenes from the Danish sovereigns' visit to Greenland in 1921.

Following the central hall, a room shows a panorama of ice with two polar bears: this is the East Greenland section, containing clothes, weapons, tools, domestic utensils belonging to the Eskimos of Angmagssalik. On the walls hangs a muskox head and paintings, with views of the country, executed by Greenlanders.

One of the side rooms leading off from the middle gallery is devoted to the country's industries: on the one hand, the old ones, represented by a collection of weapons and old-style machinery, and, on the other, a series of photographs, tables, statistics and models (among them that of the canning factory in Holstensborg), bring the public up to date with modern industries in Greenland: fishing, sheep and fox farming, coal and cryolite mining. In this room there is also a rich collection of objects made by Greenlandic craftsmen, as well as specimens of old newspapers and books in Greenlandic, which were printed at the Greenlandic printing house in Godthaab.
Another side room is reserved for everything related to intellectual culture: church, education, medical service and TV. In this room, the models of churches, schools, the teacher training college, etc., are particularly noteworthy: very modern institutions, at any rate. The third side room gives an overview of the history of the city.

The third side room gives an overview of the scientific work done in Greenland. There are portraits of the main expedition leaders, as well as portraits of polar Eskimos drawn by Harald Moltke; there are instruments, objects, maps, tables and photographs illustrating cartography, geophysics, geology, meteorology, zoology and archaeology. Finally, there is a rich collection of literature on Greenland, especially scientific literature, from the earliest times to the present day: among other things, a complete series of "Communications on Greenland" and a facsimile of the old Icelandic saga "Flatôbogen". On the other hand, we see the first editions of Hans Egede's books and other literature from the 15th and 18th centuries, as well as the still unfinished series of scientific publications from the 5th Thule Expedition.

With this exhibition, Denmark has brought an unknown, curious and closed country closer to the civilised world which, when seen from Greenland and by its inhabitants, seems no less unknown, curious and closed. From now on Greenland will occupy a less effete place in the minds of civilised men; a more accurate idea has been formed of what this country is and what Denmark wishes it to be: a country whose population is cautiously introduced to the benefits of our civilisation, and whose natural resources are preserved for its primitive inhabitants.

©Livre D'Or - Exposition Coloniale Internationale - Paris 1931