In 1984-1985, Concordia University Archives (now Records Management and Archives) put together the Joseph F. Bernard collection to document the history of the Bernard Arctic Collection.
Born December 23, 1878, at Tignish, Prince Edward Island, Joseph F. Bernard became a trapper and trader in the Arctic Ocean. Joining his uncle Peter (Pete) Bernard, Joe Bernard arrived in Nome, Northern Alaska, in 1901. Later on with his 13-ton gasoline schooner, the Teddy Bear, he spent many years travelling in the Arctic waters, trading for furs, and collecting numerous ethnographic objects and natural history specimen. Bernard Harbour, in Nunavut, is named for Captain Joe Bernard. In the 1920s, Bernard settled in Cordova working as a commercial fisherman, then as Cordova’s harbormaster. Joseph F. Bernard died in Sitka, Alaska, on April 6, 1972. His life is largely evoked through “Chasing Alaska: A Portrait of the Last Frontier Then and Now,” (2013) by C. B. Bernard.
Between 1916 and 1920, he gathered an important collection of ethnographical and archaeological objects, mainly from the Copper Eskimos of Coronation Gulf. The assemblage is known as the Bernard Arctic Collection, Bernard Eskimo Collection, Bernard Collection, or the Bernard Inuit Collection. In 1921, he loaned his collection to Loyola College. He donated it in 1924 for a proposed College museum. The museum never materialized, and in 1947 Loyola College donated part of the collection to the Arctic Institute of North America in Montreal (the Institute moved to Calgary in 1976) and part to Cambridge University's Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Other parts of the Collection were donated in 1991 to the Canadian Museum of Civilization and to Loyola High School in 1993; there may also be items from the Collection at the University of Washington Museum in Seattle, the Museum of the American Indian in New York, and the Museum of the University of Philadelphia.
Captain Joe Bernard’s life is evoked through the book “Chasing Alaska: A Portrait of the Last Frontier Then and Now” (Guilford, Connecticut: Lyons Press, 2013), by C. B. Bernard.