Last week the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre (PWNHC) won an award from the Canadian Museums Association (CMA) for outstanding achievement in an exhibition.
The winning exhibit, We Took Care of Them: Special Constables in the NWT, examines the work of Indigenous Northerners who worked as special constables for the RCMP, and taught southern police officers how to survive in the North.
Through the display, seamstresses, guides and interpreters are recognized for their contributions to police work, and for sharing vital skills that allowed RCMP to live and work in the North.
The exhibit itself was the result of a partnership between the territorial government and the RCMP G Division. RCMP researchers collected 19 oral histories and museum staff translated that knowledge into the exhibit which is now on display, both at the museum and online, in English, French and the territory’s nine official Indigenous languages.
The CMA recognized the exhibition as “nationally significant” and exceeding the current standard by going beyond a conventional approach in its connection to communities and under-represented history.
In many ways the PWNHC is a cutting-edge museum said museum director Sarah Carr-Locke.
“When I hear what other people (working in museums) are talking about, they’re doing all this work on reconciliation and trying to get to where we’ve already been for the last 20, 40 years,” she said.
The museum is unique in the way it works with communities and the public, bringing elders in to look at collections and help identify people in archive photographs, while making sure those photos are accessible to the people in them, said Carr-Locke.
“Up North, our relationships with Indigenous communities are very, very important and that’s something that I think we can always do better, but we’ve done some really interesting projects,” she said.
The award was received in Toronto by Carr-Locke, Gwich’in Elder Mabel Brown and Corporal April Bell of the RCMP, who all played a role in creating the exhibit.