A cultural centre to reconnect with Inuit heritage | Polarjournal
With a design that blends into the landscape and a limited carbon footprint, the future 5 500 m2 Nunavut Inuit Heritage Centre will house permanent and temporary exhibitions, workshops and events, as well as a conservation laboratory. The project estimated cost is CAD 140 million (€90 million), and it should be completed within seven years. Photo: Dorte Mandrup

Nunavut Inuit Heritage Centre takes shape. The building, which will house Inuit historical and cultural artifacts, is scheduled to open within seven years in Iqaluit, Nunavut.

The third and final public presentation of the Nunavut Inuit Heritage Centre was held in Iqaluit on June 4. In front of some twenty participants, the Danish architectural company, Dorte Mandrup, and the Inuit Heritage Trust were able to give a more detailed presentation of the future cultural heritage centre due to be built in Iqaluit within the next seven years. The building will house Inuit historical and cultural artefacts, currently housed in institutions and museums in southern Canada.

According to the Inuit Heritage Trust, an organization representing Inuit interests in heritage and archaeology, and a member of the steering committee overseeing the project, 140 000 Inuit artefacts are included in the southern collections. Yet the majority of Inuit do not have access to these items, or even know what is stored. A real loss in terms of knowledge of the past and ancestral knowledge of the objects made by the ancients that enabled survival in the Arctic.

And that’s what the Nunavut Inuit Heritage Centre is all about: reconnecting Inuit with their past and their heritage and culture.

Thousands of Inuit objects and artifacts are currently preserved in museums and institutions in southern Canada, such as the Winnipeg Art Gallery, which houses an important collection of objects and art pieces. Photo: Winnipeg Art Gallery-Qaumajuq

The Nunavut Inuit Heritage Centre had been put out to tender by 15 architectural companies. Dorte Mandrup was selected in May 2023 for a building project with a wave-like structure that blends into the landscape. The Danish architect is already known for having designed the Icefjord Centre, inaugurated in 2021 in Ilulissat, Greenland.

According to the architect’s official website, the mission of the future center will not be limited to its aesthetics. Focusing on living heritage and the continuity of Inuit culture and language are just as important as preserving and exhibiting cultural belongings. “The [Nunavut Inuit Heritage Centre] will support reconciliation and healing by bridging generations, allowing Inuit to connect with their Elders and ancestors as well as with non-Inuit through objects and stories.”

The project cost has been estimated at C$140 million (around 90 million euros) and the structure will be located in Iqaluit, Nunavut. The construction is likely to face some major challenges. In addition to the topographical and climatic constraints inherent to the location, staff recruitment might also be a source of concern in a region affected by recruitment and housing difficulties.

Mirjana Binggeli, Polar Journal AG

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