Human Studies Film Archives

Guide to Tip top of the Earth: Arctic Alaskan Eskimo Educational Series, 1912-1918


Collection ID:
Van Valin, William B., 1878-
No linguistic content; Not applicable
Physical Description:
10 Film reels
black-and-white silent; 6,950 feet

Scope and Contents

Scope and Contents
Edited film shot by William Van Valin as leader of the John Wanamaker Expedition to Point Barrow, Alaska for the University of Pennsylvania Museum. The film, that later toured in a film-lecture series by Van Valin, is known under the main title TIP TOP OF THE EARTH: Alaskan Eskimo Educational Series. Series includes the titles: SCENES AT NOME, ALASKA; ESKIMO SPORTS; SCENES AT POINT BARROW, ALASKA; ESKIMO REINDEER INDUSTRY; ESKIMO SEAL HUNTING; ESKIMO WHALING [Parts I and II]; and MIDNIGHT SUN SCENES. Sequences include: the steamship Victoria landing passengers at Nome, Alaska; hydraulic mining along the Bering Sea beach near Nome; a umiak with Eskimos aboard being towed; old Eskimo man cleaning salmon and preparing his pipe; salmon drying on elevated racks; summer camp activities among the Eskimos; natives dancing, drumming, racing umiaks, and participating in foot races as part of Fourth of July festivities in Nome; Eskimo barber demonstrating technique of hair cutting with stone knife; scenes of winter life including igloos covered with blocks of snow; Eskimos with dog teams and sleds; Eskimo games and forms of recreation including a form of whaling sport known as nela-ka-tuk, tossing a person on a stretched walrus hide. Also depicted are various activities relating to the Eskimo food quest: activities associated with whaling which include sledding umiaks overland through snow, hauling a whale through hole cut in polar ice, and butchering whales; activities relating to Eskimo reindeer herding, culling out males and butchering animals; and scenes relating to seal hunting, butchering seals, and the use of their hides. Included are shots of archaeological excavations conducted at early Arctic habitations showing exposed skeletal and cranial remains. (Also as part of this collection is miscellaneous footage of a rabbit drive, a mule team pulling wagons and unidentified locations). Collection also contains a book.
Legacy Keywords: Language and culture ; Ships steamships Nome Alaska ; Mining hydralic Nome Alaska ; Dogs as transportation Alaska ; Sleds as transportation Alaska ; Fishing salmon Alaska ; Boats use in hunting Alaska ; Hunting guns Alaska ; Food quest hunting fishing whaling Alaska ; Food preparation butchering drying Alaska ; Food preservation techniques of Alaska ; Cooking utensils ; Ecology seasonal movements Alaska ; Ecology seasonal movements ; Dancing drums Alaska ; Drumming dancing ceremony ; Food communal distribution Alaska ; Animal husbandry reindeer Alaska ; Herding reindeer Alaska ; Hides seals preparation of ; Boats umiaks used as shelter Alaska ; Archaeology excavations Alaska ; Recreation community Nelakatuk ; Whaling butchering Alaska
Please note that the contents of the collection and the language and terminology used reflect the context and culture of the time of its creation. As an historical document, its contents may be at odds with contemporary views and terminology and considered offensive today. The information within this collection does not reflect the views of the Smithsonian Institution or Anthropology Archives, but is available in its original form to facilitate research.


Cataloging supported by Smithsonian Institution Women's Committee.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Received from Jewely Van Valin in 1986.
Processing Information
Titles are supplied by the archivist for untitled films.

Digital Content

Using the Collection

Conditions Governing Use
Contact the repository for terms of use.
Conditions Governing Access
The collection is open for research. Please contact the archives for information on availability of access copies of audiovisual recordings. Original audiovisual material in the Human Studies Film Archives may not be played.
Preferred Citation
Tip top of the Earth: Arctic Alaskan Eskimo Educational Series
, Human Studies Film Archives, Smithsonian Institution


Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
North America Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Alaska Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Barrow, Point (Alaska) Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Nome (Alaska) Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Arctic regions Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Alaskan Eskimo Cultural Context Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
silent films Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Human Studies Film Archives
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