Seeking Inspiration in the Arctic

Caroline Lanthier is Senior Content Developer and Exhibition Project Manager at the Canadian Museum of Nature. She joined the 2014 Students on Ice Arctic Expedition to collect ideas from young participants for the museum’s next permanent gallery, which will have an Arctic theme. Here she presents a few ideas inspired by the expedition’s daily activities.

July 7:  I am told that a seat has been vacated on board the Sea Adventurer, the boat used by the 2014 Students on Ice Arctic Expedition, and this seat has been reserved for me.

My mission:  Learn as much as I can about the Arctic, immerse myself in the beauty of its landscapes, flora and fauna, seek out and meet its inhabitants, and discover the interests and concerns of young participants in the expedition.

Caroline and a museum mineralogist examine rocks on a beach.

Caroline (left) and Paula Piilonen, a museum mineralogist, examine rocks on the 2014 Students on Ice Expedition. Image: Martin Lipman © Students on Ice

My goal:  Collect ideas for the next permanent gallery at the Canadian Museum of Nature, which will open in 2017.

My state of mind:  Delighted, fantastically happy; I will finally see the Arctic.

July 12 – Nunavik (northern Quebec)
Arrived in Kuujjuaq. Welcomed by the community, visited the village, attended a barbecue and Inuit games. Boarded the Sea Adventurer.

Sunset and iceberg near Nachvak Fjord, Labrador

Sunset and iceberg near Nachvak Fjord, Labrador. Image: Caroline Lanthier © Canadian Museum of Nature.

Ideas collected:

  • Put a quad or snowmobile in the exhibition, as these are the means of transportation in northern communities;
  • Put a cloth ball suspended from a string at the entrance of the exhibition. Visitors can attempt a “high kick” to gain entry;
  • The houses in Kuujjuaq are very colourful. The exhibition should look like this.

July 13 – Nunavut
Briefly entered Nunavut to visit the abandoned community of Killiniq, on the island of the same name; rode an inflatable boat around the Button Islands and sampled surrounding waters.

Ideas collected:

  • Show casts of various animal droppings, e.g., polar bear, caribou, and hare droppings, and explain what can be learned on these mammals’ eating habits from examining them.
  • Remove one of the old houses of Killiniq, or just a piece of one, and place it in the exhibition to tell the story of this and other abandoned communities;
  • Install a lighted aquarium with zooplankton and jellyfish inside.
A scientist shows participants.

David Gray, one of the expedition’s experts, identifying Eclipse Bay seaweed, Torngat Mountains National Park, Labrador. Image: Caroline Lanthier © Canadian Museum of Nature.

July 14 to 16 – Labrador, Torngat Mountains National Park
Visited the majestic fjords, beautiful bays and Torngat Mountains National Park base camp. Hiking, fishing, polar swimming and meeting with Inuit elders. Attended many presentations and workshops. Observed polar bears and a small blue whale.

View of the base camp, Torngat Mountains National Park, Labrador.

Base camp, Torngat Mountains National Park, Labrador. Image: Caroline Lanthier © Canadian Museum of Nature.

Ideas collected:

  • Reconstruct a seal skeleton using a 3D puzzle;
  • Show specimens of various types of algae found in the Arctic Ocean.
  • Talk about polar bears, climate change, and the state of various populations such as the one at Davis Strait.
  • Is it true that lemmings commit suicide? Debunk this myth using a funny video.
  • Put music in the exhibition such as Inuit throat songs and rap.
  • Include a giant aquarium with Arctic fish species, such as the weird fish we caught called the Arctic sculpin.

July 17 and 18 – Labrador Sea, on the way to Greenland
Attended various presentations and workshops on Greenland, life in the Arctic, glaciers, climate change, arctic fauna and underwater exploration; threw bottles to the sea and observed pilot whales and fin whales.

Ideas collected:

  • Show several life-sized models of whales, for example a group of narwhals or belugas.
  • Talk about seabirds, what they eat, where they nest, and explain how they find their way home during migrations.
  • Explain the challenges facing Inuit communities such as education and food security.
  • Create a video game on the melting of glaciers and the impact on sea currents, coastal cities, and the various species living in the ocean.
View of glacier at Evigsfjord, Greenland

Glacier, Evigsfjord, Greenland. Image: Caroline Lanthier © Canadian Museum of Nature.

July 19 to 23 – Greenland
Visited majestic fjords, hiked to the foot of glaciers and on the ice cap, visited the community of Nanortalik, the abandoned mine at Ivigtut, and Nuuk, the capital of Greenland. Observed humpback whales and muskoxen.

View of the community of Nanortalik.

Community of Nanortalik, Greenland. Image: Caroline Lanthier © Canadian Museum of Nature.

Ideas collected:

  • Include a muskox specimen in the exhibition. Create a video game in which one person leads wolves while another person leads muskoxen, to explain how they defend themselves by forming a circle.
  • Use giant models of various types of icebergs that visitors can play with to create a maze pattern.
  • There are many beautiful flowers in the Arctic. Show large images of flowers.
  • Divide the exhibition into four parts: The Arctic Life Environment; The Arctic Frontier; Arctic Wildlife; and The Arctic Lab.
Image of Giesecke’s bellflower (Campanula gieseckiana).

Giesecke’s bellflower (Campanula gieseckiana), Paradise Valley, Greenland

  • Talk about the feeding and digestive system of humpback whales; why are their excrements red?

 July 24:  Back in Ottawa, the young participants in the 2014 Students on Ice Arctic Expedition say a heartfelt goodbye. For my part, it’s mission accomplished. The young people generously shared their ideas. I was able to gather that climate change is at the heart of their interests and concerns.

Now it’s time to get to work!

An abandoned mine at Ivigtut.

Abandoned mine at Ivigtut, Greenland. Image: Caroline Lanthier © Canadian Museum of Nature.

Translated from French.

This entry was posted in Arctic, Exhibitions, Fieldwork and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Seeking Inspiration in the Arctic

  1. Chuck Clark says:

    Too much “climate change” and not enough “this is what the last ice age looked like”. The only change in climate that matters is the flip from habitable to Ice-Age, and that doesn’t get enough (or any) attention.

  2. Carol Thiessen says:

    So happy that you got to go on this trip. There’s nothing like first-hand experience of a place!

  3. John Gilbert says:

    Great photo of the Ivigtut mine. I hope the 2017 exhibit will tell the story of the WWII contribution of the HBC`s “Nascopie” and its vital wartime missions to Ivigtut to collection a cargo of cryolite for the manufacture of aluminium.

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