St. Albert scientists can now learn about caribou and climate change at a new exhibit in Edmonton that showcases the science and peoples of the north.
About 450 dignitaries, including St. Albert Mayor Cathy Heron, were at the Telus World of Science in Edmonton Sept. 15 for a preview of the facility’s new Arctic Journey Exhibition. The 8,000-square-foot gallery is the last part of the science centre’s seven-year, $41-million expansion project and was open to the public as of Sept. 17.
“The Arctic is the canary in the coal mine for climate change,” said science centre president Alan Nursall, warming and changing at a rate far faster than the rest of the planet.
“It’s often said that you won’t find a climate change denier north of 60 (degrees latitude),” he added, as you can see its impacts all around you up north.
Nursall said the Arctic is one of the most important and compelling topics in science today, and as a northern city, Edmonton had an obligation to bring it to the rest of Canada.
Science and tradition
The exhibit showcases scientific research in Canada’s north and how it intersects with Inuit traditions. Guests can examine lichen under a microscope, listen to undersea life, feel caribou hides, and (by lifting up a metal hatch) smell Labrador tea.
Guests can also learn much about Inuit traditions, languages, and myths. Quotes from Inuit elders dot the walls, as do stations where you can hear northern residents speak about life in the Arctic. Visitors can step into an iceberg to learn about ice cores and sit in a pingo (a type of growing hill found in the Arctic) to hear Inuit legends.
The exhibit itself is a wide, open space which invokes the look and feel of Canada’s north. Guests follow a trail of caribou prints into the exhibit toward a glacier, where they can see videos of Arctic residents performing Inuit drumming, dancing, and throat singing.
Designers placed this station at the front of the exhibit to welcome guests, said Deborah Kigjugalik Webster, heritage collection curator for the Government of Nunavut and one of the many Indigenous advisors on the Arctic Journey design team. They also put a mirror here in case people want to try out some of the dances themselves.
“Alberta may be cold like the North, but we still would like to show Albertans about our culture and heritage,” Webster said.
The centrepiece of the exhibit is an inukshuk built by elder Piita Irniq, Webster said. Specifically, it is a niungvaliruluk or “window” inukshuk, which features a window through which travellers look to see points of interest. Guests who look through this inukshuk can see the display on seal hunting.
The exhibit examines how climate change has radically altered life in the Arctic. Melting sea ice has led to more open water, disrupting food webs and making life more dangerous for Indigenous hunters. Thawing permafrost has caused islands to erode and land to collapse under buildings.
“People are focused on polar bears, but don’t forget, it’s Inuit who live here,” Webster said.
“We’re affected the most.”
The exhibit also covers how science and tradition have helped address climate change, such as through the SIKU app, which combines traditional knowledge with scientific data to help hunters gauge ice conditions.
Webster said she hopes guests at Arctic Journey gain a better appreciation of the north and its peoples.
Visit telusworldofscienceedmonton.ca for details.