Snow goggles helped Arctic people survive

Object of the Month: 12/2007

What is it?:

Snow goggles


Origin:

Alaska


Age: 1905
Made by:

Inuit people


What is it made of?:

Ivory and sinew


Accession #: A63:30:427

Snow goggles
Snow goggles
Courtesy SMM

The Inuit of arctic North America used goggles like these in springtime to protect their eyes. The combination of clear skies, stronger sun and longer days created ideal conditions for snow blindness—an eye injury caused by glaring light bouncing in all directions off the wet, white snow.

The eyepieces, held in place by a braided sinew strap, are curved. They fit tightly against the face, blocking light from above, below and the sides. (Some Inuit darkened the insides with soot to further reduce glare.) The only light enters from the narrow slit in front. Like a permanent squint, snow goggles not only kept light to a minimum, but also helped focus images at a distance.