Museums and the Web 2005
Screen Shot: Governor General's tour of the North

Reports and analyses from around the world are presented at MW2005.

Project Naming:  Always On Our Minds

Beth Greenhorn, Library and Archives Canada, Canada


Project Naming is a trilingual Web exhibition and searchable photographic database available in English, French and Inuktitut on Library and Archives Canada's Web site. It is a collaborative effort between Nunavut Sivuniksavut, a special college program based in Ottawa, and serving Inuit Youth from Nunavut; the Government of Nunavut's Department of Culture, Language, Elders and Youth; and Library and Archives Canada. The goal of this project is the identification of Inuit portrayed in the photographic collections of Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa. It is an ongoing initiative which enables Nunavut Youth to connect with Elders and to better understand their past. It also helps to bridge the cultural differences and geographical distances between the territory of Nunavut and the more southern parts of Canada.

Keywords: Inuit, the Arctic, Nunavut, visual repatriation, digitized photographic collections, searchable database, collaborative project, user-contributed content  


Seen through the eyes of civilization, the good that these purveyors of trade and religion did is incalculable. But the exploited Inuit saw their once-strong traditional culture left to disintegrate and flounder. For countless generations the Inuit had had an iron grip on their culture; it took less than one generation for it to be put through the government's cultural mill, never to be melded back to its original form.   

(Alootook Ipellie 1992)


Library and Archives Canada is the nation's largest repository of archival and historical material. In its collection are thousands of photographs depicting the North and the people who live there, ranging from the 1850s to the present. Over the years, Library and Archives Canada has formed partnerships with various communities, utilizing the latest communications technology such as the Internet, to make its vast collections more accessible to a wide variety of audiences, from the general public to academic researchers. Project Naming is one of these initiatives. A trilingual Web exhibition and searchable photographic database, it is available in English, French and Inuktitut.

The goal of Project Naming is to make these photographic collections more accessible to the Inuit, Canadians and the world, and at the same time enable Inuit to identify the people depicted in them. It is an ongoing project, with the aim of fostering discussions between Nunavut youth and Elders as a way to reconnect with the past. It also helps to bridge cultural differences and geographical distances between Nunavut and the more southern parts of Canada.

It is helpful to clarify some terminology and the way the photographic descriptions and community names are presented. Historically, Aboriginal people living in Arctic Canada were described by the dominant white culture as Eskimos and Natives, both terms now outdated. Today they are called Inuit in the plural form, while Inuk refers to one Inuit person. Inuktitut is the traditional oral language of Inuit in the Arctic. Spoken in Canada and Greenland, as well as in Alaska, Inuktitut and its many dialects are used by peoples from region to region, with some variations. In the late 1800s, a written system was developed for Inuktitut. Today, Inuit living in different parts of the Canadian Arctic use Qaluijaaqpait (Roman orthography) or Qaniujaaqpait (syllabics), or sometimes both.

Until recently, Nunavut was part of the Northwest Territories, officially becoming its own territory in 1999. The photographs digitized for Project Naming were taken at a time when the English names were considered the official community names as part of the Northwest Territories. Today, with the creation of Nunavut and name recognition initiatives throughout the Arctic, some communities, such as Iqaluit and Arviat, have officially changed back to their original Inuit names. When locations are described in this paper, communities are listed by their Inuit name or by the English name, followed by the other in parenthesis.

In terms of the photographic descriptions, the original title appears first, followed by new information provided by Elders in square brackets. Unless stated otherwise, all of the images are from the collections of Library and Archives Canada.

Part I: Background

Describing the legacy of outside contact in the Arctic, Alootook Ipellie (1992: 51) argues that the arrival of explorers, whalers, traders, missionaries, scientists and others began irreversible cultural changes to every aspect of Inuit life. Inuit experienced their first contact with the outside world around 1840 when European and American whalers began making yearly trips to Arctic regions, while explorers sailed the same waterways in search of the Northwest Passage to the Orient (Fig. 1). These two groups introduced the Inuit to guns, cloth, metal, tools and utensils, musical instruments and dances, as well as alcohol and tobacco, and diseases.

Screen Shot: Studio portrait of an Inuit woman

Fig 1: Studio portrait of an Inuit woman, probably from the eastern Arctic, who came south on a New Bedford whaler, and was possibly on a 'tour' when photographed, ca. 1860, New York, PA-181095

As the whaling industry declined towards the end of the nineteenth century, the Arctic fur trade began its expansion. By the early 1900s the Hudson Bay Company was well established throughout the Arctic, building posts wherever there was a concentration of Inuit.

Whereas Inuit had been self-sufficient for centuries, the Hudson Bay Company established a relationship in which the Inuit depended on the company for their survival. Furs were traded by Inuit for European commodities, items that they became accustomed to having (Ipellie, 1992). There exist many examples in the collections that document the promotion of commercial products, including this 1924 photograph (Fig. 2) from the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs collection. Such images were taken as a way for the federal government to exert its control and dominance over the Arctic and its people.

Screen Shot: Distributing biscuits

Fig 2: Distributing biscuits to natives at Pangnirtung, N.W.T., ca. 1924, [Pangnirtuuq, Nunavut], PA-102321

The late nineteenth century also witnessed the arrival of Anglican and Catholic missionaries to the Arctic. As a way of introducing Inuit to Christianity and the Bible, the missionaries began developing a written system for Inuktitut. In 1876 in Baffin region, Anglican minister, E.J. Peck, started translating the New Testament, and some hymns, into Inuktitut by adapting Cree syllabics, developed fifty years earlier. In 1894, Baffin Island's first permanent church mission was established near Pangnirtung (Pangnirtuuq), where syllabics were taught to Inuit.

The creation of a system of writing of Inuktitut had major repercussions upon Inuit and the origins of their names (Brown, 2002). Traditional Inuit names reflect all aspects of what is important in their culture: environment, landscape, kinship, animals, birds and spirits. Elders named babies after relatives or favourite people, so that the deceased may live forever, and individuals were said to receive power from their names, especially if named after a shaman (Brown, 2002).

As a way of breaking with the traditional religious beliefs practiced by Inuit, the missionaries renamed them, drawing upon the Bible for inspiration. Thus, Matthew was transformed into Mathewsie, John into Joanasie, Elizabeth into Ilisapie, Mary into Miali (Fig. 3) and so forth.

Screen Shot: Native woman

Fig 3: Native woman, Pond Inlet, Baffin Island, N.W.T. [Miali Aarjuaq wearing an 'amauti' (a woman's hooded caribou parka.) This photograph was taken near the R.C.M.P. Detachment], 1923, [Mittimatalik/Tununiq, Nunavut], PA-101840

It was not uncommon for the Inuktitut version of the biblical name to be dropped completely and individuals to assume new anglophone identities, as seen in Figure 4.

Screen Shot: Untitled, 1951

Fig 4: Untitled [Moses Idlout (left) and Rebecca Qillaq Idlout (right) soaking 'kamiks'], 1951, Pond Inlet, N.W.T. [Curry Island, near Mittimatalik/Tununiq, Nunavut], PA-189094

Many Inuit adopted Christian names as a demonstration to the Church that they had put ancient traditions behind them (Brown 2002). Still, there existed a form of resistance as many continued using their Inuktitut name within their communities and their families. As Ann Meekijuk Hanson (1999) recalls, "Among ourselves, we always used our ancient names. So when I was baptized, I became Annie, but to my parents and elders, I was Lutaaq, Pilitaq, Pallug, or Inusiq."

In addition to the variations in regional dialects, missionaries and other southerners had difficulty in pronouncing words in Inuktitut, as the phonology differs greatly from English. Consequently, in documents kept by the Church and other federal institutions, Inuit names were often recorded incorrectly. Typically, "q" was replaced with "k" and "r" with "g". Nunavut Commissioner Peter Irniq (2005) describes how insulting these misspellings could sometimes be. Ikualaaq is one name that was often spelled incorrectly. Ikualaaq means fire in Inuktitut; however, the "i" and "k" are regularly replaced by "e" and "q", reducing this name to a very vulgar meaning.

By the 1920s and 1930s, fluctuating fur prices, epidemics and shortages of wildlife made survival increasingly difficult for many Inuit (McGhee and Crowe, 1999). Over the course of the next several decades, they continued to experience other major upheavals, becoming more and more cut off from their traditional way of life, and living in what many termed  'artificial' communities where Hudson Bay Company posts had been established (Ipellie, 1992).

Following the Second World War, the Canadian Government began to assume full responsibility for the health, education and welfare of Inuit with the introduction of a social welfare program that provided health care, social assistance and family allowance benefits (Fig. 5).

Screen Shot: Eskimo family

Fig 5: Eskimo family looking at a Family Allowance Poster, 1948, Baker Lake, N.W.T. [Qamanittuaq, Nunavut], PA-167671

As a way of administering its recipient records, the Government initiated a number system in the early 1940s in order to count and identify Inuit. Thus, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) began registering Inuit for statistical purposes, and gathered data from one community to the next (Figs. 6-8).

Screen Shot: Unidentified man

Fig 6: Unidentified man, e002344278

Screen Shot: Unidentified woman

Fig 7: Unidentified woman, e002344279

Screen Shot: Unidentified girl

Fig 8: Unidentified girl, e002344280

Figures 6, 7 and 8 were all taken in August 1945 at Pond Inlet, N.W.T., [Mittimatatlik/Tununiq, Nunavut]

The RCMP's progress was hampered by the fact that Inuit had no family names, and further complicated by individuals often changing their names as a result of a bad experience (Ipellie, 1992). Moreover, like the missionaries before them, RCMP staff had difficulty in the pronunciation of Inuit names. The Government, therefore, devised another identification system. Every Inuk was assigned a number which was stamped on to a leather disk about 3 mm wide that had to be worn around the neck. From thereon, the Government dealt with each individual on the basis of his or her number.

Describing this complete and utter loss of individual identity, Ann Meekitjuk Hanson (1999) writes:

To the Canadian government, however, I was Annie E7-121!...E stood for east and W stood for west. We were given a small disc looped on a sturdy string, brown with black lettering. I only learned about the last names when I went to school in Toronto in the early 1960s. My foster parents let me use their family name, so in Toronto I went by Annie Cotterill – E7-121 was not a very attractive name for a young girl! And when I came back home, I certainly did not want to be Miss E7-121 as a secretary in the government office, so I took my father's first name, Meekitjuk, as a surname.

This eradication of names, and by extension of personal identities, has had a profound impact upon Inuit. By 2002, following the creation of the territory of Nunavut, approximately 400 people from across the new territory applied to the Nunavut Court of Justice to officially change back to their original names (DeNeen, 2002).

The number system ended in 1969. The Government then implemented a policy requiring every individual to adopt a surname, despite the fact that this was not part of Inuit tradition. This drive, which eventually became known as Project Surname, was met with a mixed response, prompting confusion and resentment amongst some Inuit (DeNeen, 2002).

In the early twentieth century Inuit culture experienced yet another assault with the establishment of five residential schools that removed Inuit children as young as five years old from their families and the whole context of Inuit culture, sometimes for years (McGhee and Crowe, 1999).  The first Inuit school on Baffin Island was established in 1955, and by 1967,  the Government had erected sixty schools across the Arctic. Children were removed from their communities and sent to these central schools where they were taught in English and given uniforms that replaced their traditional clothing. Thus, the gaps between the older and younger generations were further widened.

Reflecting on the immense changes that Inuit have experienced in the first half of the twentieth century, Inuk filmmaker  Zacharias Kunuk asks

4000 years of oral history silenced by fifty years of priests, schools and cable TV? This death of history is happening in my lifetime...What will I answer when I'm an elder and don't know anything about it? Will I have anything to say?   (Geller, 2004: 10).

 As Kunuk's comments reveal, the losses of language, culture and tradition experienced by the younger generations of Inuit have created considerable generation gaps. Younger Inuit have become disconnected from their language, their history and their past. One of the goals of Project Naming has been to allow the younger generation to reconnect and understand their past by sharing memories and stories with Elders.

Part II: Project Naming

An Overview

Project Naming started with the bold premise that past wrongs could be corrected. The archival community and government officials from Nunavut had long recognized that the majority of photographs of Inuit in Library and Archives Canada's collections were not identified. However, it was Murray Angus, an Instructor with the Nunavut Sivuniksavut Training Program, an Ottawa-based post-secondary school for Inuit students, who finally proposed Project Naming as a way to reclaim these lost names.

Each year students from the college visit Library and Archives Canada to search the card catalogues for photographs of their families and communities in Nunavut (Fig. 9). As part of their visit, the college pays for the students to order a copy of one photograph to take home to their families during the Christmas holidays.

Screen Shot: Students from Nunavut Sivuniksavut

Fig 9:  Students from Nunavut Sivuniksavut researching photographs in the card catalogues at Library and Archives Canada, Courtesy Nunavut Sivuniksavut Training Program

Similar to other images depicting Aboriginal peoples in the collection, the majority of the Inuit in the photographs researched by the students were either unidenstified or were generically labelled as Eskimo or Native, as seen in Figures 10 and 11.

Screen Shot: Rev. A. Turner

Figure 10:  Rev. A. Turner, assisted by native cathechist, hold service for Eskimos at Pangnirtung Anglican Mission, no date, Pangnirtung, N.W.T. [Pangnirtuuq, Nunavut], e002213357

Screen Shot: Native type

Figure 11: Native type, Chesterfield Inlet, Northwest Territories, 1926, Chesterfield Inlet, N.W.T. [Igluligaarjuk, Nunavut], PA-099399

Frustrated by the lack of information and the anonymity of the people depicted in the photographic collections, Murray Angus approached Library and Archives Canada and the Government of Nunavut about the possibility of collaborating on a joint project with the purpose of recording the names of these anonymous people. The project assumed a sense of urgency, as today's Elders are the only people left able to identify the individuals in these photographs, many of which are now more than forty years old.

In the winter of 2001, Project Naming was initiated when a partnership was established between Nunavut Sivuniksavut (a unique eight-month college program for Inuit youth based in Ottawa -, the Government of Nunavut's Department of Culture, Language, Elders and Youth (CLEY) and Library and Archives Canada.  Each institution has been responsible for specific parts of the project. CLEY has provided the funding to Nunavut Sivuniksavut to purchase laptop computers, and for salaries of Inuit youth fieldworkers and student researchers. Nunavut Sivuniksavut has played a pivotal role in coordinating the fieldworkers and students who have worked their way across Nunavut in the identification of the photographs. As people were identified, Nunavut Sivuniksavut entered the data gathered into spreadsheets and sent it to Library and Archives Canada. The work of Library and Archives Canada has focused on researching and digitizing the photographic material, translating new information into Inuktitut, updating and maintaining the databases, and creating and managing the Web exhibition.  Since its inception, Project Naming has progressed through three phases.

Project Naming: Phase One

Phase One began in the spring of 2001 with the digitization of approximately 500 photographs by renowned photographer Richard Harrington. Dating from 1948 to 1952, these images depict the Inuit he met during his trips to Arviat (Eskimo Point), Kugluktuk (Coppermine), and Igloolik (Iglulik), Tayloyoak (Spence Bay). These scans were sent to Nunavut Sivuniksavut, formatted by Angus into Power Point presentations, and taken on laptop computers by Inuit Youth to the four Nunavut communities where they were shown to Elders for identification.

In this early phase of the Project, the meetings between Youth and Elders took different formats, including one-on-one conversations and small gatherings with several individuals. In some communities, such as in Arviat (formerly Eskimo Point), everybody over the age of forty was invited to the community centre where the pictures were projected onto a big screen. Audience members called out names of individuals as they recognized their grandparents, their parents and sometimes themselves. Sheba Awa was one of the fieldworkers who visited many Elders in Igloolik (Iglulik), including Eugene Ipkangak, during the winter of 2001 to 2002 (Fig. 12).

Screen Shot: Fieldworker Sheba Awa and Elder Eugene Ipkangak

Figure 12: Fieldworker Sheba Awa and Elder Eugene Ipkangak, Igloolik (Iglulik), winter of 2001 to 2002, Courtesy Nunavut Sivuniksavut Training Program

The visits between youth and Elders continued through the autumn of 2002 and were concluded that winter. Overall, the meetings were a great success. Of the first 500 photographs digitized, Elders identified nearly three-quarters of the individuals depicted in them, and very often, the names of family members and friends. For many images, the Elders also provided anecdotal information describing what life was like for Inuit fifty years ago or the context in which the photograph had been taken.

Project Naming: Phase Two

In the summer of 2003, new research began on photographs taken in the Baffin Region, marking the next phase of the project. This was also the period when I took over as coordinator of Project Naming at Library and Archives Canada. Elisapee Avingaq, a second year student at Nunavut Sivuniksavut, assisted me for several weeks with the research.

Whereas the images in the first phase of the project were limited to the work of one photographer from the mid-twentieth century, in phase two the scope had greatly expanded in terms of both date and collection. Ranging from the early 1920s to the 1960s, the images from Baffin Region originated from various public and private collections. These include the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, the National Film Board of Canada, Health and Welfare Canada, and the Department of the Interior, as well as the personal collections of Donald Marsh (Anglican Bishop of the Northwest Territories), Charles Gimpel (a British art dealer), William Harold Grant ( a participant in the Canadian Government Expedition of 1922 to the Arctic), and Arthur Tweedle (an optometrist and amateur photographer), to name a few. (see Project Naming: Photo Collections,

Approximately 1,400 Baffin area photographs were digitized, described at the item level, and added to the database. The majority of these images had never been copied. Stored in the vaults of Library and Archives Canada, they were largely inaccessible to people from Nunavut. Previously, the only available information for most of these photographs was at the fond (collection) level, making access to them  impossible without the time and the resources to visit Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa to conduct extensive research on-site.

In December 2003, Mathewsie Ashevak and Tommy Akulukjuk, two students from Nunavut Sivuniksavut, took approximately 500 images from the Baffin region back to their communities of Cape Dorset (Kingait) and Pangnirtung (Pangnirtuuq) during their Christmas holidays. Over a three-week period they met with community Elders in order to identify the anonymous people depicted in these pictures. During this time, other youth met with Elders in the Baffin community of Pond Inlet (Mittimatalik/Tununiq). As with the first phase of the project, these interviews produced very positive results, yielding identifications for almost one-third of the individuals in the photographs from all three communities.

As with the first phase of the project, Elders provided anecdotal and genealogical information for many photographs, including this picture of Aulaqiaq Duval (Fig. 13). Although blind, she was still able to thread a needle and sew. She was married to William Duval.

Screen Shot: Mrs. Duval

Figure 13:  Mrs. Duval threading needle. [William Duval's wife, Aulaqiaq. Although blind, she was still able to thread the needle and sew], August 1946, Pangnirtung, N.W.T. [Pangnirtuuq, Nunavut], PA-166464,

In this next image (Fig. 14), the two women and the baby had never previously been identified. However, with the knowledge of the Elders, we now know that Annie Pijamini is the woman carrying her baby Mimi Pijamini, and that Sowdluapik is the name of the other woman, and that she was married to Josephie Sowdluapik.

Screen Shot: An Inuit lady with a baby

Figure 14: An Inuit lady with a baby on her back and another Inuit lady just behind her. [Annie Pijamini (left), carrying Mimi Pijamini (baby in an "amauti") and Sowdluapik (right). Sowdluapik is Josephie Sowdluapik's wife.] Pangnirtung, N.W.T. [Pangnirtuuq, Nunavut], 1950, PA-181325

Recalling his experiences with the Elders in the recovery of names, Mathewsie Ashevak (2004) writes:

It was so exciting showing these Elders the pictures...when I clicked onto each picture, I watched their eyes. As they recognized an individual, they would have a big smile on their faces, and acted as if these pictures were taken just yesterday...before now, I have not talked much with Elders. This experience is new to me, which I really enjoyed. Each time they named a person in the picture, it made me want to go back to the time they started to remember.....While looking at the photographs, the Elders were smiling like they were back in the old days. Pauta saw his father and two sisters, and Kenojuak was able to see her son and husband. When I saw the happiness in their faces, all I could do was smile back at them and be thankful for doing this.

Before the research of the Baffin area photographs, a consultation was held with Murray Angus (an instructor in the Nunavut Sivuniksavut program ), and it was decided that the emphasis should be placed upon photographs from the 1940s, as there was a greater chance that today's Elders would be able to identify individuals from this era. Many of the photographs, however, were taken ten to twenty years earlier. Given the fact that most of these collections had not been accessed in years, it was important to scan as much material as possible to make it available on the database. The information recounted by Elders exceeded expectations. In a number of photographs dating from the early 1920s, they were able to identify the names of individuals shown in photographs from almost eighty years ago. One such example includes this picture of Atigilik from about 1924 (Fig. 15).

Screen Shot: Native boy at Pond's

Figure 15: Native boy at Pond's (sic) Inlet, northeast coast of Baffin Island, c. 1924. [Atigilik, wearing a caribou tunic with fur inside], ca. 1924, Pond Inlet, N.W.T. [Mittimatalik/Tununiq, Nunavut], PA-102269

Project Naming: Phase Two

As with most archival research and Web design, the second phase of Project Naming met a number challenges, which I will briefly describe.

Usually community names were recorded in the photo albums or on the backs of photographs. However, many of the images were simply identified as Northwest Territories, Eastern Arctic Expedition, or even more vaguely, as The Arctic, as evidenced in the photograph of unidentified men from the second series of Health Canada’s Eastern Arctic Patrol files (Fig. 16).

Screen Shot: Untitled, 1958

Figure 16: Untitled, 1958, e002216380

Until 1999, the area of Nunavut was part of the Northwest Territories. Where names of communities were available for photographs, they were recorded using the English version and not the Inuktitut name. Since the creation of Nunavut, some communities have changed back to their original Inuit names. This meant the need to cross check historical atlases with a contemporary map of Nunavut to compare and confirm photographs were actually taken in Nunavut and not the Northwest Territories. To further complicate matters, in a number of cases the names of locations in English provided by the photographers do not even exist in historical atlases.

The research of the Baffin Region photographs was greatly facilitated with the assistance of Elisapee Avingaq: her knowledge of this region proved to be an invaluable resource. From the central Baffin community of Igloolik (Iglulik), she was able to identify photographs depicting the various Baffin communities from those in Nunavut's other two Regions, Central Arctic (Kitikmeot) and Keewatin (Kivalliq) (Fig. 17), and those of the Northwest Territories by the physical features of the land.

Screen Shot: Map of Nunavut's three regions

Figure 17: Map of Nunavut's three regions

For example, Elisapee knew that the following photograph (Fig.18) was taken in Pangnirtung (Pangnirtuuq) by the landscape in the foreground and the vista and inlet that lay beyond.

Screen Shot: Untitled, no date

Figure 18: Untitled, no date, Pangnirtung, N.W.T. (Pangnirtuuq), Nunavut] e002394457

Prior to this project, I had no in-depth knowledge of the geography of this vast region, and what I did know had been informed and shaped by images taken by photographers from southern Canada. Elisapee's knowledge of the Baffin area landscape, coupled with the fact that she is Inuk, were extremely helpful and time saving during the research of photographs from this area.  This is good example of how the knowledge and expertise from the Inuit community have greatly benefited the archival research process. 

While lack of information and community name changes posed some problems during the research phase, the Inuktitut site raised a number of technical difficulties during the design of the Web exhibition and creation of the database.

During the early stages of the project, we discussed with Nunavut Sivuniksavut  the logistics of making the Project Naming Web exhibition and database available in syllabics and Roman orthography. In the end, we chose to limit this phase of the project to syllabics, with the possibility of making a version in Roman orthography available at a future date.

Syllabics is a relatively new form of writing, with only a few fonts that are compatible with both Macintosh and PC operating systems. In terms of the database, there is one font that could be used, and it is only accessible with the latest version of Macintosh systems. This presents a series of technical challenges, with the risk of losing, even temporarily, data and the valuable work it represented. It is also an example of the barriers experienced by Indigenous or minority languages, and shows how they have been excluded from the dominant culture.

Project Naming: Phase Three

The third phase of Project Naming took place when the Web exhibition (Fig. 19) was launched in October 2004.

Screen Shot: Project Naming splash page

Figure 19: Part of the Project Naming splash page

The Project Naming Web exhibition features essays about the history of the project and the language of Inuktitut, as well as an overview of the photographic collections in Library and Archives Canada. The highlights of this site, however, are the searchable database to the photographs and the section entitled The Naming Continues that contains an electronic form inviting visitors to send Library and Archives Canada information pertaining to individuals portrayed in the photographs.

Since its launch, we have received new descriptions for approximately twenty photographs that previously had not been identified. One the Web exhibition, a visitor was able to provide the names of six people who attended an event during the Governor General's tour of the North (Fig. 20), adding that the photograph was taken in the old garage in Apex, a suburb of Iqaluit, where the community gathered for special events.

Screen Shot: Governor General's tour of the North

Figure 20: [Josie (centre) is seated wearing a white parka, and Oo is sitting next to him. The child sitting between Josie and Oo is Udluliaktuk Pishuktie. The woman seated on the box in the foreground is Enoosik, who is holding baby Kalapik Pishuktie. The man wearing the cap and standing is Enoosik's husband, Akshuyulia Pishuktie], March 1956, Frobisher Bay, N.W.T. [Iqaluit, Nunavut], e002265649

Other responses have been quite emotional and personal. One visitor writes: "For the first time, I saw a picture of the person I am named after, Qajaaq." In addition to a photograph of Qajaaq, just visible on the far right (Fig. 21),  a photograph of his mother (Fig. 22) was also scanned during phase II of the project.

Screen Shot: Untitled, 1951

Figure 21: Untitled, Pond Inlet, N.W.T. [Panikpakuttuk (centre) and Qajaaq (right). The man on the far left is unidentified. They worked for the R.C.M.P. Detachment], 1951, Mittimatalik/Tununiq, Nunavut], P A-102452

Screen Shot: Native of Baffin Island

Figure 22: Native of Baffin Island. [Inuguk Panikpak wearing a women's caribou parka used for photographs. She was the mother of Qajaaq], August 1931, Mittimatalik/Tununiq, Nunavut], PA-10 0192

This past December, students from Nunavut Sivuniksavut returned during their Christmas holidays with another several hundred images from communities in all three regions in Nunavut, and additional images will be taken to more communities later this spring. The new information given by the Elders will most likely be available this coming summer.

To date, progress on the Project Naming database has progressed relatively slowly, hampered by language issues, geographical distance, and the vastness of the territory. While there is still much work to be done in this visual repatriation project, it is hoped that research and the digitization of our immense photographic collections depicting Inuit, together with our collaborations with Nunavut Sivuniksavut and the Government of Nunavut, will continue in the years to come. 


Important historically, culturally and socially, this project benefits Inuit, the archival community, and all Canadians. It is an excellent example of how the archival community can collaborate with and benefit by the input of a cultural community. Through the pooling of resources and expertise, the photographic collections in Library and Archives Canada have become much richer and more meaningful with the identification of so many faces that had remained anonymous for decades.

Most Inuit do not own family photographs from their past. Through the digitization of the photographs in Library and Archives Canada's collections, they now have access to their 'family photo albums,' enabling them to reconnect with their ancestors.  At the same time, these photographic collections provide a legacy to be shared by all Canadians for generations to come. Describing the significance of Project Naming, Peter Irniq writes:

[It] is very important for Inuit, as it is for all Canadians, because it allows us to bring back the Inuit from the past to the see Inuit photographs from the past without names is insulting....[this project] is a Project of the Century. It allows us to name the pictures of the past to reconnect us with modern day Inuit. Most of all, it allows us to reconnect with our relatives. In the naming of photographs, we are ensuring that Inuit live forever through photographs.  (Irniq, 2005)

As with the birth of Nunavut in 1999, Project Naming marks another significant chapter in the lives of Inuit through the reclamation of lost names.

References Cited

Ashevak, Mathewsie (2004). "Voices from Nunavut", Project Naming Web site.

Crowe, Keith (1999). "The Road to Nunavut" Nunavut'99, co-published by Nortext Multimedia Incorporated and Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, consulted January 10, 2005.

DeNeen, L. Brown (2002). "In Old Names, a Legacy Reclaimed" Canku Ota: An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America, consulted January 18, 2005.

Geller, Peter (2004). Northern Exposures: Photographing and Filming the Canadian North, 1920-45. Vancouver, Toronto: University of British Columbia Press.

Ipellie, Alootook, (1992). The Colonization of the Arctic. In Gerald McMaster and Lee-Ann Martin (Eds.) Indigena: Contemporary Native Perspectives. Hull (Quebec): Canadian Museum of Civilization. 39-57.

Irniq, Peter (2005). Letter to the author, January 28, 2005.  E-mail Correspondence.

Kublu, Alexina and Mick Mallon (1991). "Our Language, Our Selves" Nunavut'99. Co-published by Nortext Multimedia Incorporated and Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, consulted January 10, 2005.

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Meekitjuk, Ann Hanson (1999). "What's In a Name?" Nunavut'99. Co-published by Nortext Multimedia Incorporated and Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, consulted January 10, 2005.

Cite as:

Greenhorn, B., Project Naming: Always On Our Minds, in J. Trant and D. Bearman (eds.). Museums and the Web 2005: Proceedings, Toronto: Archives & Museum Informatics, published March 31, 2005 at