Posted to the Ethnos Project by on December 22nd, 2011

Dr. Scott Heyes (Assistant Professor at the University of Canberra) presented this paper at the Indigenous Knowledge and Technology Conference (IKTC 2011) in Namibia on 2-4 November. Dr. Heyes is a Cultural Geographer and Landscape Architect who has worked on some very interesting projects.


Inuit storytelling in the Ungava Bay region of Northern Quebec, Canada is a mode of communication that has rapidly decreased over the last decade. Many myths and legends which contain information about the natural, physical, and spiritual environments of the region are no longer being passed on to young generations. In an effort to revitalize knowledge that is embedded within Inuit stories, a virtual building has been designed, at the conceptual level, to serve two functions: (1) as a storytelling space for the Inuit residents of Ungava Bay and for those interested in the North; and (2) as a facility to communicate Inuit stories of the region that the Smithsonian Ethnologist, Lucien McShan Turner (1847-1909) documented between 1882 and 1884. A virtual storytelling space representing the Ungava Bay region is likely to be more accessible to Inuit across the North than is a physical space.

As non-Inuit and local Inuit pass through the virtual doors of the storytelling space they gain an appreciation of the mythological and spiritual importance of the surrounds of Ungava Bay. By engaging with the virtual storytelling space, non-Inuit visitors gain an appreciation of the Ungava Bay region as a living landscape where Inuit hunters and fishers are interacting with their ancestors through narratives and stories. The storytelling space captures the human and spiritual elements of the Arctic landscape and seascape.

This article explores the ethnographic and design processes that were undertaken to generate the virtual storytelling space. The design vision is based on fieldwork and interviews that have been carried out with Inuit experts on myths, legends and hunting knowledge. With the form and function of the building based on local stories, the proposed centre offers a way to mingle with the ancestors and for Inuit knowledge to be shared through design.

The video below is a walkthrough of a storytelling center design concept for Kangiqsualujjuaq, Northern Quebec (by Scott Heyes & Dermot Egan).

Read the paper

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