Years museum AT THE
As it celebrates 40 years as a hub of NWT culture and history, the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre is bursting at its seams, quite literally. Its archives are full so boxes of materials are gathering in other buildings, ceilings are cracked and leaking, poor heating and air conditioning threaten the preservation of items. A $400,000 study is underway to see what’s required to take the crumbling building into the next 40 years. Director Sarah Carr-Locke sat down with EDGE YK editor Laurie Sarkadi to talk about its past and the future.
place passed with flying colours. Bob Janes is actually very famous in the museum world now so it’s pretty exciting to me to say that he got his start here. He told me, interestingly, that we were one of the first museums to use firstperson narratives on the exhibit labels. A lot of museums will have an expert curatorial voice, right, where it’s experts talking about what they know about Dene culture or whoever. But we have always tried to make sure that communities are speaking about themselves. WHAT ARE SOME EXAMPLES OF THAT TYPE OF COLLABORATION, OF HOW WE ARE DIFFERENT FROM OTHER MUSEUMS?
The Yellowknives Dene exhibit was a really meaningful one for me. We worked really closely and they made decisions every step of the way of what they wanted to see and how
(This interview has been edited for length and clarity) EDGE YK: THE PRINCE OF WALES OPENED THIS HERITAGE CENTRE ON APRIL 4, 1979. WHY DID SUCH A RELATIVELY SMALL PLACE IN CANADA NEED A MUSEUM?
The reason for the founding of this place was to keep northern art and culture in the North. Because the NWT was also Nunavut at the time there was a lot of Inuit art. Inuit art was very popular in the ‘60s which was great for communities and great for profile around the country and stuff like that, but what was happening is that northerners didn’t have access to that art. One of the founding collections was from the Department of Indian and Northern and Affairs at the time and that was kind of repatriated to us when we opened. There was also a collection that came from this sort of mini museum before this place was built that was run by volunteers and a board called the Museum of the North. It was where Northern Images is now in that little blue building. And then the third reason was to create a place to base northern archeology and research out of so that archeological artifacts weren’t all going south as well. We have the NWT Archives in here which is also important to our founding, so it was really about making sure that northerners had access to their own culture and heritage. DO YOU THINK IT’S SUCCEEDING?
Yeah, I do. I came up here to do a study of it as a PhD student in 2013. My dissertation topic was about looking at collaborations between Indigenous peoples and museums and how museums work with Indigenous people to represent themselves in exhibits and this
Sarah Carr-Locke poses in front of an exhibit at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre. The museum's director says the 40-year-old building is in desperate need of renovations. Photo by Angela Gzowski.