How the walrus got his tusk back

Unikkaarvik Visitor Centre gets a facelift



By June, the Unikkaarvik Visitor Centre in Iqaluit will have an entirely new look.

Heather Gosselin, manager of parks, conservation areas and tourism for the department of sustainable development, said people who haven’t been into the visitor centre since Christmas will notice a huge difference now.

“A lot of the exhibits have been removed,” she said. “It’s been painted and prepared for the new exhibits.”

In the planning stages for a couple of years, the renovations are funded by both DSD and Heritage Canada.

Iqaluit’s visitor centre was established in 1994 and has traditionally focused on the Baffin region. Now, it is being transformed into a Nunavut-wide visitor’s centre that will focus on all three regions and ideas relating to the territory as a whole.

“The theme of the exhibits is Man On The Land, so it’s focusing on the relationship of man on the land over time in Nunavut,” she said. “The type of exhibits range from actual exhibit panels to dioramas.”

The whale and polar bear exhibit greeting visitors will stay, as will the stuffed walrus, although it will be incorporated into another exhibit, she said. All donated art will also remain at the centre.

The igloo display in the centre’s side room and the cost-of-living display have been dismantled and will be replaced by new panels exploring the theme of Man On The Land, the six seasons in the Inuit cycle and a caribou diorama.

“We’re trying to reuse some components and then bring in some fresh stuff,” Gosselin explained. “We’ve also designed the facilities to help improve sightlines within the visitor centre to help improve security.”

The improved visibility in the centre should solve an increasing problem with vandalism. The walrus, for example, had one of its tusks removed, something Gosselin assured will be replaced.

The services at the centre will remain unchanged. Tourists will still be able to wander into the beachfront location and look for information and suggestions about how to plan their stay in Nunavut.

“If anything, the new exhibits and new reception area will enhance that and make it much easier to provide those services,” Gosselin said. “We’ve expanded the merchandise area too.”

While DSD has funded the majority of the project, hiring consultants and exhibit designers, Heritage Canada also set $88,000 aside in its 2003-04 budget for new equipment for the centre.

Gosselin said the equipment includes the increased security measures, a lighting program and audio-visual equipment required for some of the exhibits. The rest of the project, pending budget approvals, will continue to be funded by DSD.

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