First opened in 1979, the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre is celebrating 40 years of serving the community.
Staff will be marking the occasion with a series of lectures.
First up will be museum director Sarah Carr-Locke, who will speak on Thursday at 7 p.m. about her enduring fascination with museums and the importance of storytelling.
“We thought it would be good to start off with a talk by the director because then I can set the scene for the rest of the talks,” she said.
Carr-Locke is hoping to get Yellowknifers excited about the museum and the work that goes on behind the display cases.
“People’s ideas of museums can be old-fashioned,” said Carr-Locke.
“But we think about them as much more alive and dynamic and having a place for people to go and do things and engage and have discussions and do activities as well.”
Carr-Locke’s talk will also touch on the importance of having a museum that is accessible to every member of the community.
“The idea is that museums would like to be places where all kinds of people, all levels of community, all ages come and all experience something that’s meaningful for them,” she continued.
This idea of accessibility is something staff think about while planning events, programming and even writing labels for exhibits, said Carr-Locke.
In many ways, the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre is a cutting-edge museum, said Carr-Locke.
In the past it has brought in elders to look over its collections and help identify people in archive photographs, she said.
“When I hear what other (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,” said Carr-Locke.
One exhibit titled “We Took Care of Them,” which is currently on display both at the museum and online, is an example of this work.
The exhibit 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.
RCMP researchers collected 19 oral histories and museum staff translated that knowledge for the exhibit, which recently won a national award for outstanding achievement in exhibition.
Looking forward, Carr-Locke wants the museum to continue looking at how to best represent culture and heritage for everyone in the Northwest Territories.
“Some people in Yellowknife, if they’ve grown up in Yellowknife and don’t go to other museums, may think that what we do is normal, whereas I think what we do is pretty fantastic,” she said.
The next speaker series will be archaeologist Mike O’Rourke talking about coastal erosion in the western Arctic on May 30.
“His work also shows that same ethic of working very closely with community and not ever doing culture and heritage work without consulting local Indigenous people,” said Carr-Locke.
The spring speaker series will be followed by another series of talks in the fall.
The museum will be celebrating 40 with a birthday party on June 15. The free event will be open to the community with music, food, activities and cake.