Archives relating to the whaling industry inspired Alice Millar-Thompson’s illustrated essay, ‘In the Belly of a Whale’, for the River Deep Mountain High exhibition. The photograph is part of the David Henderson collection.

In the Belly of a Whale by Alice Millar-Thompson
Creative essay

“The legacy of Dundee’s involvement in the retrospectively barbaric, yet highly profitable, practice of whaling is scattered throughout the city. Its relics and homages to its cultural heritage are what first piqued my interest in the historical relationship between humanity and whales. While visiting the University Archives, I came across a photograph of a whale with a marker flag embedded in its back; an image which served as one of my primary inspirations, evoking ideas regarding the historical subjugation of predominantly docile cetaceans.

This piece discusses changing perceptions of human-animal relations from the era of whaling to the present. Although populations of many species are now recovering, the destructive behaviour of our species continues to impact the lives of whales. This is an issue which I attempt to address in my writing.”

Originally from Kirkcaldy, Alice is in the fourth year of her undergraduate English & Creative Writing degree.

River Deep Mountain High was an exhibition in the University’s Lamb Gallery to mark the Year of Coast and Water curated by Archive Services. Artists, designers and creative writers were invited to respond to the University’s rich archive, museum and rare book collections on the themes of rivers, seas, coasts and mountains. Original photographs, journals, plans, models and specimens relating to whaling, the River Tay, the natural world and mountaineering inspired jewellery, artwork, sculpture, poetry and much more.

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