Gjoa Haven’s Nattilik Heritage Centre moving ahead with expansion

The price tag is up sharply over original estimate because of COVID-related inflation.

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The Nattilik Heritage Centre in Gjoa Haven wants to expand its 3,300-square foot space to display over 100 artifacts from the 1845 Franklin Expedition, and create room for local programming in the community. (Ed Stewart via Nunatsiaq News)

The Nattilik Heritage Centre in Gjoa Haven has awarded Yellowknife-based Northern Industrial Construction and the Taylor Architecture Group a contract to design and build its expansion.

The center plans to more than double its floor space in order to display more than 100 artifacts from the ships that were part of the doomed 1845 Franklin Expedition.

In adding 4,800 square feet to its current 3,300-square-foot location, it wants to also create room to present community programming.

Campbell Cameron, a consultant with Nattilik, said the center issued a request for construction and design proposals at the start of 2022.

That was put on hold in March, though, once the team realized the expected cost had risen to $9 million from $6 million.

“The initial pricing we got back from our request for proposals was considerably higher than what we originally budgeted for back in 2019 — before COVID, before any of the supply chain issues and before any of the fuel price increases due to the war in Ukraine,” Cameron said.

“It became pretty evident to us that we needed to pause that request and take a look at securing additional funding and make sure that we had the budget available to build in today’s prices.”

The Franklin Expedition began in 1845 when explorer Sir John Franklin and his crew set sail from England with two ships, HMS Erebus and HMS Terror. They hoped to cross the last unnavigated sections of the Northwest Passage across the Arctic.

For the next 169 years the ships were believed lost, despite several searches, until an expedition led by Parks Canada and aided by local Inuit discovered the Erebus in 2014 and the Terror in 2016 near Gjoa Haven.

Cameron said Northern Industrial Construction and the Taylor Architecture Group were awarded the contract following a second request for proposals issued in August.

He said they were selected because they have experience “working in the North, designing in the North and building in the North.”

The center has still not been able to secure the additional funding.

However, it hopes to use the $6 million it initially budgeted to develop floor plans and finish designing the space.

The center is also engaging with Inuit in Gjoa Haven about how they hope to use the new space. It hosted a consultation session Oct. 5, and plans another one from Nov. 28 to Dec. 1.

“We hosted a feast in the high school gym in Gjoa Haven for the community to come out and take a look at some of the preliminary drawings and concepts that the designers are coming up with,” Cameron said.

“Our contractors were there because one of our objectives was to gain the interest of many community members that would want to potentially do an apprenticeship or work with Nattilik, or work for our construction group during the actual construction of the building.”

The Nattilik board is also consulting the community because it wants the expanded space to be about more than just exhibits and artifacts, Cameron said.

“It’s really about providing additional space for the community to gather, do some arts and crafts and some training … just a place for residents to share their culture, their heritage, their history with the other members and community and visiting members from other communities,” he said.

The center hopes to have secured the extra $3 million it needs by summer 2023, when the design process is completed and actual construction of the expanded space will begin.