Cultural Heritage Interpretive Training
Starting August 2014


Although Nunavut is very rich in cultural resources, sites, and archaeological remains, the wealth of cultural history is widely unknown to the general public in Canada and even many residents in our northern communities. Many communities have small visitor or heritage facilities with interesting exhibitions but the lack adequately trained staff to build programs around local exhibits, collections or even around historic sites. Enabling heritage workers in different communities to identify historic sites in the settlement's vicinity increases the potential to educate locals and visitors about the cultural history of that particular place and, by extension, the larger region. Training heritage workers in museum pedagogic skills will open up new dimensions of sharing Inuit culture and history with the rest of Canada.

Once local heritage workers have gained the necessary skills to identify historic sites and artefacts and have learned how to perform further research through local heritage centres and museums, they will be able to develop educational programming around these cultural resources. Tangible and intangible cultural heritage can be brought back to life through these newly required or improved presentation and pedagogical skills. The heritage workers will then be ready to present the results to a wide range of audiences and visitors.

Past training initiatives of Inuit Heritage Trust focussed mainly on overall management of a heritage organization or facility and its collections. Basic training in research and exhibition design were offered as well.

CHIT will be built on IHT's past training initiative content and expanded through exhibit production and interpretive programming training.

With the new Cultural Heritage Interpretation Training Program, IHT will build on the knowledge of past training initiatives but also expand the participants' knowledge of cultural heritage interpretation through exhibit production and interpretive programming. Participants will be introduced to many new layers of making culture accessible to local residents, tourists, and travellers. Participants will be able to expand their outreach efforts and identify and further develop unique cultural potential of their communities.

Building upon the success of our past Heritage Training Institute, IHT is developing and implementing the Cultural Heritage Interpretive Training (CHIT) pilot project. 10 to 25 heritage workers from Nunavut will undergo seven days of intensive training in cultural heritage interpretation of Inuit past and present. Before the training can begin an investigation on the nature of cultural heritage interpretation areas in Nunavut is necessary. Then a CHIT curriculum for northern heritage can be developed.

The project preparation and research phase will last from June 1, 2014, until January 31, 2015. It will consist of community visits and interviews with heritage facility and heritage organization staff. Then, together with an advisory committee comprised of representatives of key heritage organizations in Nunavut, the consultants will develop the final curriculum.

After the development phase the first CHIT program
will be conducted during fall 2015.

The training will be conducted in a Nunavut community with a large potential for different cultural heritage interpretation (e.g. museum, heritage centre, historic site, historic building). It will be conducted shortly after the main tourist season of 2015 (September/ October 2015). This timing will facilitate seasonal availability of heritage workers, provide typical Arctic conditions, but still allow for easy outdoor travel and site access.

The course curriculum will include topics such as:

  • public presentation (speaking skills and story telling)
  • museum pedagogy and exhibition design
  • identification of the heritage potential of historic sites
  • program and tour development for historic sites

The entire project will end on December 31, 2015 with a project evaluation report that will include feedback from participants, education advisory committee members, employers of participants, and the consultants.

Project Description – Overview

For several years now IHT has been offering professional development training on an entrance level for heritage workers in Nunavut. Our Nunavut Heritage Training Institute provided a basic introduction into the heritage workers' roles at museums, visitor centres and heritage facilities. Participants learned management skills, collections handling skills, and basic visitor interpretive skills through exhibition design.

The very positive feedback from both participants and employers who sent staff members to the training proves the value and success of the training initiative. Some of the participants also moved ahead to other positions or felt encouraged to go for post secondary education through the help of the program.

Although past IHT Heritage Training Institute programs have generally received positive feedback, recent comments suggested that more in-depth
cultural heritage interpretive training is required.

More recently (over the past 2 years) IHT has increasingly received feedback that the portions of Nunavut's heritage community most closely linked to tourism are in need of more in-depth cultural heritage interpretive training.

Increasingly, visitors who are not familiar with the Inuit culture (in particular cruise ships, business travellers, high numbers of temporary employees in northern communities) require heritage and visitor facilities to offer more public education and cultural interpretive services on Inuit culture and history. Museums need more community outreach programming for their exhibitions and collections; many historic sites and historic buildings in or nearby the community are unidentified or underdeveloped as cultural heritage tourism attractions. Since most visitors are very unfamiliar with the local history and culture they very much appreciate well trained guides with a comprehensive expertise in local heritage and culture.
The Nunavut Arctic College has created a new course called "Tourism Studies Program" that is intended to help Nunavut residents become actively engaged in the territory's tourism industry. The course curriculum teaches essentials on how to run a business, offers certified training opportunities to introduce (inter-)national standards in Nunavut (e.g. Wilderness First Aid) and is preparing northerners to develop a tourism experience product that will compete for customers on an international level.

The main focus of the Tourism Studies Program is towards building a foundation for a strong economic business in tourism. Since the program provides training for all kinds of northern tourism its content can touch heritage interpretation only peripherally. Nature interpretation and hunting guiding are other more central aspects of the program. The Tourism Studies Program generally only recruits its students that are recent high school graduates or who are unemployed. This means that Heritage workers who are already employed at different organizations across Nunavut have little chance to upgrade their knowledge through this program.

Here is where IHT wants to step in and fill a gap to complement existing programs with our new pilot program. The Cultural Heritage Interpretive Training (CHIT) is aimed at specifically helping heritage workers upgrade the knowledge required for their heritage-related job positions. Furthermore CHIT will equip its participants with the skills and resources to engage both temporary tourists and the community with local heritage resources (museums, sites, buildings) and thus make local history become part of the corporate identity of the community.

To enlighten tourists, travellers, and temporary employees to the region's cultural value, museums should provide more community outreach programming while historic sites and buildings need to be better identified and developed.

Although there is common call for more cultural heritage interpretive training, by many different heritage organizations in Nunavut, there is very little data available on the specific needs, details, and the overall nature of such training.

Thus, IHT sees the need, as a first step, to research the particular kind of CHIT that is needed for the development of the local heritage sectors in Nunavut's communities. Only then can IHT proceed with Step 2 and Step 3:

  1. Research on the particular kind of CHIT that is needed for the development of the local heritage sectors in Nunavut's communities
  2. Develop a curriculum for a substantial CHIT
  3. Deliver the training to heritage workers.

Our target group is heritage workers from across the territory. Heritage worker is defined very broadly as any kind of person who is professionally involved in the promotion and preservation of any aspect of Inuit culture or identity. People who are planning to start a career in heritage work (e.g. have a job offer but no final contract, Nunavut students who are enrolled in post secondary heritage education, etc.) will also be considered for program eligibility.

Outputs and Outcomes

Outputs: By 2017 IHT projects that 75% of the participating organizations shall have developed at least one community outreach project (museum pedagogy initiative) or have identified additional cultural heritage resources in the immediate community or nearby (e.g. heritage site, historic building, etc.). A rough proposal of how that newly identified heritage resource could be linked with a cultural heritage interpretive program should be provided to IHT.

The outcomes of the research phase are:

  • identify the kinds of CHIT required
  • identify potential areas of CHIT (museum, cruise ship, historic sites etc.)
  • identify skill level of cultural heritage interpreters
  • summarize findings in a report that will be discussed with IHT board, Education Advisory Committee, collaborating organizations and communities
  • develop curriculum and training plan based on findings

Expected outcomes of the training initiative are:

Short term:

  • identify historic sites with a potential to be developed to a cultural heritage interpretation site
  • that local heritage facilities begin to develop more community outreach projects

Long term:

  • increase museum programs
  • develop historic buildings or sites as significant cultural heritage interpretation sites
  • increase adjustments to or changes of exhibitions in local heritage and visitor centres
  • increasing knowledge of Inuit culture and history (locally, regionally, nationally)
  • increase the number of local visitors to heritage facilities
  • increase diversity of local cultural heritage interpretation programming among Nunavut's communities



IHT will contract two consultants who will deliver all phases of the program (research, curriculum development, training). They will travel to all three regions of Nunavut (Qikiqtaaluk, Kivalliq, Kitikmeot) and visit three communities of each region that are strategically chosen by the IHT project manager. The criteria for choosing a community are primarily the community's interest in developing a stronger local heritage sector, its actual engagement into tourism initiatives, and its potential to expand the cultural heritage experience for visitors.

On their three day community visits the consultants will engage in discussions with community representatives and heritage organizations to investigate the fundamentals of CHIT in Nunavut.

All results of the CHIT assessment will be shared with participating communities and organizations. The IHT board who will also advise on the project progress.

An Education Advisory Committee (EAC), consisting of representatives from key Nunavut heritage organizations and facilities, will oversee the consultant work, give advice, and share its own thoughts with the consultants and IHT. The EAC will be involved in the CHIT assessment, the curriculum development, and the project evaluation.

In the past, close collaborations between IHT, its consultants, and many heritage organizations and facilities in Nunavut, have already established a solid atmosphere of trust among the key players of the project. Partnerships between IHT and some other organizations are in place and will be kept active through this and other projects.

Personal contact to participants and employers is very important. Throughout the project this will be maintained via regular email, teleconferencing, face-to-face meetings (if possible) and the sharing of project updates and developments through the Nunavut Heritage Network (newsletter).

The Cultural Heritage Interpretive Training (CHIT) programs is aimed specifically to help heritage workers upgrade their knowledge to fulfill job requirements and to equip them with skills and resources to engage both temporary tourists and the community.