Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG)-Qaumajuq in Canada launches interactive digital platform for Inuit carvings

One-hundred and fifty works are featured in the Visible Vault interactive digital platform. (Courtesy Winnipeg Art Gallery-Qaumajuq)

An interactive digital platform launched by the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG)-Qaumajuq offers anyone the chance to get up close with some of the most important Inuit carvings from across Canada, says the museum’s Head of Learning & Programs.

“We’re celebrating the diversity and resilience of Inuit art and artists from across the country,” Rachel Baerg, said in a telephone interview. 

“We want to celebrate and inspire and get people thinking beyond just the carving they’re looking at, but also to understand the context, the culture, the community, the stories and the legends.”

The three-story visible vault is one of the unique features of the WAG-Qaumajuq. Forty-five hundred carvings are currently displayed on its 492 shelves.

The Visible Vault interactive digital platform launched on July 22 in English, Inuktitut and French featuring 150 key pieces from the collection.

Works by John Tiktak, Davidialuk Alasua Amittu, Oviloo Tunnillie, John Pangnark, Lucy Tutsweetok Tasseor, Judas Ullulaq, John Kavik, and Abraham Anghik Ruben are among the featured carvings. 

Exploring the diversity of Inuit art in Canada

The platform allows visitors to take a 360 degree tour of the vault as well as listen to audio clips, watch videos, and learn more about the artists and where they come from.

“In the past, at many museums and galleries, it’s been non-Indigenous curators speaking to the importance of works,” Baerg said. 

“So we really wanted to highlight the perspectives of as many different Inuit knowledge keepers, artists, curators, performers and elders as possible. We captured all kinds of audio and video clips, so those are like little art stories that we add for each of the key pieces and that allows us to bring a lot of voices to the table which is just a whole new way of exploring a work.”

“We wanted to make sure this wasn’t just another display, but an opportunity for community involvement,” Rachel Baerg said of the online Visible Vault. (Courtesy Winnipeg Art Gallery-Qaumajuq)

Picking the pieces for the platform launch took place over several months. The project was headed by Inuk curator Maxine Anguk and involved the museum’s educational and curatorial teams as well as the museum’s Indigenous advisory circle. 

The goal was to launch with pieces that represented the diversity of Inuit carving from different geographical regions and periods, to materials and subject.

“We wanted this to be almost like a visual encyclopedia, mapping the art and how it’s developed from the early 1950s to now,” Baerg said. 

Phase Two to be launched on-site in September

The project team also looked for ways to educate visitors about different aspects of Inuit carving, including the nuances of the stone used.

“When you walk through the vault, you’re literally walking through the different geographical regions of the North,” Baerg said. “You can actually see the change in stone colour, as well as how the techniques change, as different types of artists work with different types of stone.” 

“With the online platform, we actually have an article that talks all about the different stones and how they’ve been quarried in different regions of the North. Things like that are part of what makes the platform such a great window for people to better understand these works.” 

A screenshot from the Visual Vault online platform. “We wanted this to be almost like a visual encyclopedia mapping the art and how it’s developed from the early 1950s to now,” Rachel Baerg said. (Courtesy Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG)-Qaumajuq)

Phase Two of the project is expected to launched in the museum in September, and will allow visitors to access information about all 4,500 carvings on a virtual, on-site only platform.

The Visible Vault interactive digital platform can be accessed here in all three languages. 

Write to Eilís at eilis.quinn@cbc.ca 

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: 2022 Arctic Arts Summit to be hosted in Canada’s Yukon territory, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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