Thirty years worth of file boxes – thousands of them – have been accumulating all sorts of information and images at the Inuit Art Foundation’s office in Toronto.

This photo of Cape Dorset artist Napachie Pootoogook is one of many images and written records that will be entered into a digital archive over the next year. The Inuit Art Foundation is behind the initiative.
Photo courtesy of the Inuit Art Foundation

That material – such as paper documents, film negatives and slides – will find a home in an online archive over the next year.

The Inuit Art Foundation is undertaking a major digitization process, converting the content into a searchable online resource that will be available to Northerners and others around the world.

Being mindful of the slow rate of the Internet in the North, the foundation aims to make low and high-resolution versions of the data and images available for download, said Alysa Procida, the organization’s executive director.

“It creates a richer archive for people to access but also to have a better understanding of the development of the contemporary field on Inuit art as well as individual Inuit artist practices and histories. It will all be in one place,” Procida said.

The trove of photos includes: a plethora of images of Inuit artwork in all variety of media; portraits of artists; pictures of art events; and snapshots of communities from all across Inuit Nunangat, which comprises the Inuit of Nunavut, the Inuvialuit of the NWT, the Inuit of Nunavik in northern Quebec and Nunatsiavut in northern Labrador.

“It’s a much more comprehensive understanding of artists’ development and sharing; the way that artists have been, more than people realize, sharing across the North,” Procida said. “I think there’s a narrative that artists are sort of isolated in communities, but there’s quite a lot of back and forth and sharing of practical knowledge all the time. This (archive) will also help very tangibly demonstrate that.”

The National Heritage Digitization Strategy, which relies on public and private funding, is contributing $80,786 toward the initiative. There is other financial aid making the project possible, Procida noted.

Several Inuit Art Foundation employees will work on the digitization initiative with an aim of having the bulk of it complete in 2019, said Procida, adding that the content will be uploaded and made available to the public throughout the year.

“Ambitious but accomplishable… it’s a very large undertaking,” she said. “We have a really great team. We have a lot of Inuit leadership on this. We’ll be able to make sure that things are appropriately made available.”

A charitable organization, the Inuit Art Foundation was established in 1987 to advocate for Inuit artists and to promote Inuit art in Canada and around the world. A majority Inuit board of directors provides direction to the foundation.

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