The collections depicting the people of Canada's North consist of thousands of photographs dating from the late 1800s to the mid-20th century. However, very few Inuit in these images were identified at the time these photographs were taken. Nunavummiut have never had a chance to assist in identifying these individuals because the collections were located far from their communities and, prior to digitization, there was no means of easily transporting the photographs to Nunavut. The naming of these still anonymous people has become very time sensitive. Today's Elders may be the last people able to identify these individuals from the past, whose names might otherwise remain lost forever.
While the archival community has long recognized that the majority of Inuit whose photographs are held in the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) collections were not identified, it was Murray Angus, an instructor with Nunavut Sivuniksavut Training Program (NSTP), who proposed Project Naming. For years, Angus has organized an annual visit of NSTP students to LAC to search for photographs from their communities in the card catalogues. As the majority of Inuit depicted in the photographs were not identified, Angus proposed Project Naming as a way to give people from Nunavut access to the photographic collections of Inuit held at LAC, to foster dialogue between Nunavut youth and Elders, and to reclaim these "lost" names.
Project Naming was initiated in the winter of 2001 when a partnership was established between Nunavut Sivuniksavut; Nunavut's Department of Culture, Languages, Elders and Youth; and LAC. Since its inception, the project has progressed through several stages.
Students from Nunavut Sivuniksavut Training Program searching the card catalogues at Library and Archives Canada. Left to right: Nadia Mike-Dulmage and Jennie Soucie, both from Iqaluit (formerly Frobisher Bay), and Annie Aningmiuq of Pangnirtung (Pangnirtuuq)
Cathy Anablak of Cambridge Bay (Iqaluktuuttiaq) and a classmate from Nunavut Sivuniksavut Training Program, searching the card catalogues at Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa
Corenna Nuyalia (front) from Iqaluit (formerly Frobisher Bay) and Thomas Aggark (back) of Arviat (formerly Eskimo Point), students from Nunavut Sivuniksavut Training Program, seaching the card catalogues at Library and Archives Canada