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Inside the Collection – Native American Snow Goggles

Posted under Collections by Guest Author

Inside the Collection is a video series that invites you into the Chicago History Museum’s storage spaces to explore unusual, interesting artifacts from our vast collection.

In this installment, senior collection manager Britta Keller Arendt shows us a pair of Inuit snow goggles, eye protection crafted and worn by the native peoples of Alaska and Canada to prevent “snow blindness.” The narrow slits reduced the amount of light that could reach the eyes, and the strip of hide securely affixed the goggles to the wearer’s head. Snow goggles were designed to fit each person’s face and personal preferences (like different styles of sunglasses). Some were made of bone, others of wood.

These goggles came to the Museum from the collection of Charles Gunther, a German immigrant, successful candy maker, and collector of historical and anthropological artifacts. Over many years, he amassed a spectacular assortment of artifacts, ranging from the significant—the bed on which Abraham Lincoln died—to the fantastical [or: the curious]—the skin of the serpent from the Garden of Eden. He operated a private museum above his candy store, and it’s possible that these goggles were on display there. When Gunther died in 1920, the Museum purchased a large portion of his collection.

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