After passing through the gallery’s entrance, the first display is a jaw-dropping multimedia installation called Beyond Ice. Developed in conjunction with the National Film Board, the display features scenes and animation by Inuit artists projected onto large blocks of pointed ice emerging from the floor.
“Our goal with the gallery is to transform people’s understanding of the Arctic and to create a space that will expose Canadians and visitors from abroad to this important part of our country,” says Meg Beckel, the museum’s president and CEO.
The authentic and innovative works of art from the Arctic throughout the 750-square-metre gallery certainly deliver on that. Notable among them is the anamorphous art installation entitled Ilurqusivut (Our Ways) by Inuk artist Nancy Saunders from Kuujjuaq, Nunavut. Her piece spans seven walls, with a larger-than-life central image that becomes fragmented into other images when viewed from different perspectives, creating an optical illusion that a two-dimensional work of art is shown in three dimensions.
The artwork is in keeping with the museum’s collaborative approach to creating the gallery, which was developed with input from an advisory committee, that included members from Indigenous organizations Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and Nunavut Sivuniksavut. Another key outcome of input from the advisor committee is the Northern Voices Gallery, a special exhibition space that will feature rotating displays curated by Northerners. The inaugural show Inuinnauyugut: We are Inuinnait is presented by the Kitikmeot Heritage Society, based in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. It explores the culture of the Copper Inuit with about 50 historic and contemporary artifacts.
“This exhibit continues 100 years of research,” says Jeff Saarela, the director of the museum’s Centre for Arctic Knowledge and Exploration, of the institution’s longstanding work in the North. Indeed, beyond the collection of artifacts, which are gathered in four themed zones covering climate, geography, sustainability and ecosystems, the gallery also boasts interactive and multimedia exhibits that connect visitors to Arctic researchers and locals.
In total, the Arctic Gallery features more than 200 specimens and artifacts from the museum’s extensive collection of Northern flora and fauna. Among the highlights: full-sized replicas of Arctic species, including a polar bear, muskox, caribou, beluga whale and narwhal; a 3-D circumpolar map; and two aquaria.
The new Arctic Gallery will be included with general admission to the museum.