William Fitzhugh

Director, Arctic Studies Center
medium shot of anthropologist Dr. William Fitzhugh in a gray sweatshirt sitting outside on stones in front of a field.
Dr. William Fitzhugh at Hare Harbor on the northeast coast of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where for more than a decade he has led an excavation of an early European Basque whaling site. Photo by Wilfred Richard.

Dr. William Fitzhugh is Director of the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center and Curator in the Department of Anthropology at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Bill first became interested in the North through canoeing in Ontario and his anthropological studies at Dartmouth College with Elmer Harp, Jr., who invited him to take part in archaeological projects in Newfoundland and Hudson Bay. After two years in the U.S. Navy he attended Harvard University where he received his Ph.D. in anthropology in 1970, and thereafter took a position at the Museum.

He has spent more than 30 years studying and publishing on Arctic peoples and cultures in northern Canada, Alaska, Siberia and Scandinavia. Recent research efforts have been directed at investigations into the problem of the western penetration of Maritime Archaic, Paleoeskimo and early Inuit cultures along the Lower North Shore of Quebéc, and to associate this cultural history more closely with Labrador and Newfoundland. Current interests in the origins of reindeer herding have led him to conduct research in Mongolia, where he is investigating reindeer herding in southern Siberia along the forest-steppe border, as well as investigating possible connections between deer-stones and Scythian art to the ancient art of East Asia and the Bering Sea Eskimos.

As curator of the National Museum of Natural History's Arctic collections, Bill has produced four international exhibitions. His public and educational activities include the production of films, including the NOVA specials, “Mysteries of the Lost Red Paint People” and “Norse America,” as well as several other Viking films. He served as Chairman of the Smithsonian's Department of Anthropology from 1975-80 and is a member of U.S. Government committees responsible for cultural and social science policy in the Arctic.