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Raw Materials: Inuit sculpture from the Sylvia A. Morley Collection

In the early 1950s, the first large scale north-south cultural exchanges in Canada established the market for what we now refer to as Inuit Art. The first communities to begin selling their work to a southern market in any organized way were Inukjuak and Puvirnituq (Quebec) and Cape Dorset/Kinngait (Baffin Island).  The sculptures from this early period tend to be small, easily transportable works created by what was still a nomadic people. In the late 1950s and early 60s, carving became a significant source of income within newly formed Inuit-owned co-operatives, and for many today it continues to provide a living while also supplying the means to express pride in their culture and their craft.

Special Collections received a donation of Inuit sculpture from a former Ryerson student who actively collected, both through galleries in the Toronto area and in person at northern co-ops. The small display on the Library’s 4th floor offers us an opportunity to discuss the use of materials from different regions, as she collected examples from across the Arctic (perhaps favouring Baffin Island and Labrador), and the growing art production within the Inuit communities over the latter half of the 20th century. The display also precedes the opening of a much larger exhibition of contemporary Inuit art scheduled to open at the Art Gallery of Ontario on April 2nd: Inuit Modern: The Samuel and Ester Sarick Collection. To learn more about these items and their creators, visit Special Collections and the AGO this spring.

Miki, Andy, 1918-1983 Bird figure, abstract [date unknown] stone, dark to light grey Arviat, Kivalliq region of Nunavut

Palliser, William, 1947- Hunter in Kayak, 1996 North West River Area, Labrador

Pisuktie, Josie, 1901-
Bird figure, black
[date unknown]
Iqaluit, Baffin Island region of Nunavut

Sannertannu, Annie Anaronar, 1913-
Standing figure
[date unknown]
Repulse Bay/ Naujaat in Nunavut