While fans of the Canadian Museum of Nature may be disappointed that the Museum’s special summer series “Focus on the Arctic” officially came to an end this Labour Day weekend, Arctic enthusiasts can enjoy a new special exhibit featuring glimpses of life in Nunavut as the Museum’s northern programming continues in the permanent Canada Goose Arctic Gallery.
Launched on August 30, Voices from Nunavut is a video project featuring photos and videos taken by northern youth from each of Nunavut’s 25 communities using iPads that had been provided to the youth to help capture daily experiences in Canada’s Arctic territory.
The idea behind the video project was not only to share with the rest of Canada how folks in Nunavut live, but also allow Northerners to see what other northern communities are like. The communities in Nunavut are mostly fly-in only, as there are no roads connecting them, so even northern residents don’t often get a chance to explore many other communities in the region.
When given the iPads, youth were asked to film what made them proud, what made their community special, and what it is like to live in their community. The iPads served as a useful tool for documentation because of their portability and durability, and – as we all know – because young people are often good at figuring out how to use iPads.
I had a chance to check out the exhibit this Labour Day Monday. The exhibit displayed the iPads in neat rows in the huge sprawling space that forms the rotunda mezzanine of the museum. Each iPad features a story from a different community, like Apex or Taloyoak, all in English, French, Inuktitut and Innuinaqtun, Nunavut’s four official languages.
The video I most intensely enjoyed was the one from Cambridge Bay (Iqaluktuuttiaq), the western Arctic community I had lived in for a while. The film clips did a startling job of instantly bringing the Kitikmeot hamlet to life: cheery familiar faces filling up the camera frame with bright smiles, athletic young men competing in traditional Inuit jumping games, the local hockey rink that brings so much joy for so many community members, elders talking about their histories at the Kitikmeot Heritage Society, students singing the national anthem in Inuinnaqtun. I immediately had the sensation that I was back there.
Why has there been such a push lately to learn about the Arctic and the people living there? For one thing, knowledge of the Arctic is important because of how profoundly interconnected our eco-system is. The Arctic is kind of a canary bird for the planet, showing early warning signals of climate change. Also, a basic step towards our country’s goal of reconciliation with our Indigenous peoples is to listen to their voices and learn more about them. Voices from Nunavut is one vivid way to being able to do so here in the nation’s capital, offering an immersive opportunity to learn more about this part of Canada that most Canadians don’t get to see.
While you’re at the Canadian Museum of Nature, it’s also worth checking out the entire Canada Goose Arctic Gallery, the new permanent gallery that occupies the top floor. One of the special exhibition here is the Northern Voices Gallery display We Are Inuinnait, developed by the Kitikmeot Heritage Society in Cambridge Bay (go, Cambridge Bay!), featuring the history and culture of the Inuinnait, formerly known as the Copper Inuit.
“Voices from Nunavut” will be displayed at the Canadian Museum of Nature (240 McLeod Street, Ottawa) until it moves to the TIFF Lightbox in Toronto on October 22. Entry to the exhibit is included with general admission. Visit nature.ca for more details.