Project Naming, a joint project of Library and Archives Canada and Nunavut Sivuniksavut in Ottawa, began by scanning photos of unidentified Inuit from the National Archives and sending them North with students from the Ottawa college.
Doug Wilkinson took this photo of an unidentified woman and child in Kinngait/Cape Dorset in October 1951. It's another of the photos waiting for names at the Project Naming Web site. - photo courtesy of Library and Archives Canada
The students would show the pictures to elders in their community and record names, then give that information back to the archives.
Now the project has taken another step by putting a selection of the photos up on the Library and Archives Canada Web site, 600 on the English and French parts of the site, and 100 in Inuktitut.
Archivist and database manager Beth Greenhorn had hoped to have the site up and running by June, but faced a number of delays, primarily in converting the archival information into a searchable database.
"What I need is someone who could work on this full-time," she said.
The Web site database became operational Oct. 6 and Greenhorn has already received additional information about two photos through the site.
Photos can be searched by community, time period, photographer, or by the names of people already identified.
Greenhorn's focus for the rest of the year will be on getting more photos up on the Web site and compiling CDs for the Nunavut Sivuniksavut students to take home with them at Christmas. The photos Greenhorn pulls next will depend on which communities the participating students are from.
"What I found really amazing was how great people's memories are," said Greenhorn. When the project started, she initially focused on photos from the 1950s, thinking that would be about as far back as most people could remember.
"But while I was doing my research I found these great photos from the 1920s," she said.
A lot of them were from Pond Inlet and for some of them, the photographers had written down phonetic English spellings of the Inuktitut names of the people in the pictures.
"I thought that since they hadn't been seen in a long time, I might as well get scans made of them and send them up North and see what happens," she said.
"I had close to 100 come back with new names."
Many of the names Greenhorn received back were close to what the photographers had recorded, proving the accuracy of the memories of the elders.