Thursday, 20 July 2017

Focus on an Archive: Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, NWT

On my recent trip to the Northwest Territories, I made sure I made a visit to the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre (PWNHC). I'm very lucky in that my significant other is a history buff like me. He was all for taking a look with me. We made a point of planning our trip in such a way that we would be able to have lots of time to spend there.

Built in 1979, it is the Territorial Government's archive and museum.Now, unlike some of the Government Archives around the country, the PWNHC does not hold those usual records that we as genealogists crave, such as BMD's and land records. The reason for this is that these records are just too new to be publicly available. They are still held in the custody of the particular government department they belong to. Older records that don't fall under privacy legislation are most likely held in the Archives in the Prairie Provinces, all of which used to be part of the Northwest Territories.

The PWNHC instead focuses on a general history of the Territories. They do have some government records that relate more to the running of the Territory. They also have private collections of records from both individuals and businesses. There's an extensive photo collection, audio and visual files, and maps. You can also take a look at their collection of publications on the history of the Territory. For a more detailed explanation of their holdings, you can check their website here.

The jewel in the crown though is the museum. We spent a long time going through the building. I was very impressed with how interactive all the displays were. They have dioramas of all the various arctic animals. In front of each animal was a information stand, with statistics on the animal's size, habitat, etc. Many of them had pelts attached that you could touch. In a glass case beside each diorama were example of all the products that were made from that animal and tools. At the bottom of each case was the name of the animal in English, French, and several of the indigenous languages. You can also listen to audio files, some with elders talking about their experiences

There are also displays telling the history of the many different Native groups, and a general history of the Northwest Territories. There are displays of clothing, furniture, and an absolutely huge mooseskin boat. I learned a great deal in just a couple of hours.

Along with their permanent displays, the PWNHC have travelling exhibits available for NWT communities to display. They also have virtual exhibits online here.

The museum is open daily from 1030 a.m.-5 p.m. and until 9 p.m. on Thursdays. There's a cafe onsite that is open the same hours. The archive is open Monday to Friday 9 a.m.-12 noon and 1 p.m. to 430 p.m. If you have mobility problems, both levels are designed to accommodate.


  1. So jealous! It sounds like a great genealogy trip! Well, holiday...

  2. It was a great trip. It was 26 degrees when we were in Yellowknife. I don't have any ancestors that ventured that way that I know of. The dedication that the NWT has to preserving their history and culture makes me wish I did! The rest of Canada would do well to take lessons from them in highlighting the Indigenous culture and history in our country.