Fort Edmonton Park Indigenous Peoples Experience, Part 2: Specialty Construction Management
The Indigenous Peoples Experience at Fort Edmonton Park is a first-of-its-kind immersive and comprehensive exhibit developed in conjunction with the City of Edmonton, Treaty Six First Nations, and the Métis Nation of Alberta.
City of Edmonton / Fort Edmonton Management Company
An expansion to the existing Fort Edmonton Park located along the North Saskatchewan Riverbank, the Indigenous Peoples Experience (IPE) features a new exhibit building within a 7-acre site that includes lush native plant discovery trails, animal sculptures, tipi camps, gathering places, arbours, and open-ended opportunities for interpretive programming.
The heart of the expansion is the Cultural Centre, a purpose-designed 30,000 square-foot facility housing an immersive exhibit, event space, classrooms, offices, and smudging and ceremony space for Indigenous groups. Here, guests encounter a dynamic experience that combines original audio and video, custom Indigenous artisan-made objects, and first-person voices in multiple languages and formats in a unique and inviting environment.
As visitors enter the Cultural Centre, they are greeted by original artwork and immersive projection setting the stage for the experience. Throughout the exhibit, media, lighting, and audio is layered over culturally significant structures. Massive tipi-inspired walls come to life with vibrant projected media illuminating the space and leading guests on a journey through the seasons and timeless First Nations’ knowledge. A Métis homestead immerses guests in the sounds and vibrations of the Red River Jig while projected artwork and images fill the roof. The Meeting Place invites guests to gather round as kin and bear witness to the resurgence of the Indigenous Peoples in Edmonton. Rear projection screens overlaid with printed scrim create layers of imagery, allowing original artwork and hand drawn animation to bring Indigenous knowledge to life in a dynamic way.
“The whole idea is to not have it like a museum, but to have an experience of seeing and hearing and maybe even catch a scent of the smudge”
- Elder Ekti Cardinal, Saddle Lake Cree First Nation
What we did.
nFusion acted as the Prime Consultant and Attraction Manager to provide design management, procurement and implementation guidance, and Creative and Technical Direction with our stellar team of brilliant creatives and technical subconsultants.
nFusion was brought on at Concept Refinement and managed Specialty Creative and Technical Design, as well as the Base Building Design with our subconsultant Stantec, the local Architect and Engineer. Through production and construction, nFusion oversaw creative art direction to ensure design intent and quality.
In the final stages of implementation, nFusion developed and drove the completion strategy of the attraction as the Integration Manager and the Creative / Technical Director. nFusion oversaw the completion of vendor scopes, coordination and integration of the scenic and AV installation, and ensured dedicated programming and test and adjust periods to produce a seamless final guest experience.
How we did it.
nFusion dives deeper into the topic of scheduling and planning a project in a way that prioritizes the final guest experience here.
Through the development of the technical media experience, nFusion provided valuable guidance and oversight for visitor flow test cycling and operations training to ensure delivery of guest experience goals.
This effort resulted in a comprehensive show program that sequenced and layered media, lighting, and audio effects with simple controls for operations staff to easily switch between daily operations, modified settings for special needs groups and events, and manual modes.
Indigenous engagement and content development.
From the earliest stages of development, it was clear that engaging with the local Indigenous communities and empowering them to tell their story in their own voice was key to the project’s success. This approach side-steps traditional museum narrative and emphasizes first-person quotes to highlight the Indigenous tradition of oral storytelling.
Deep conversations with over fifty Indigenous Elders, historians, educators, and community members informed the content. The stories, artwork, and text come directly from Indigenous perspectives gathered through engagement with over forty local Indigenous nations, historical documents, and research. Indigenous artisans were commissioned to craft their own personal versions of traditional objects for display in the space alongside recreations of historical artifacts guests can touch and feel. Music was custom created through an artist residency bringing together and providing a platform for local Indigenous talent from both traditional and contemporary genres.
The exhibit explores the rich cultures of local First Nations and Métis Peoples while encouraging guests to seek out truths lived by Indigenous Peoples before and after Canada became a country. This approach to content development spotlights underrepresented perspectives to teach guests both the beauty of these cultures and the gut-wrenching realities of their history. The Indigenous Peoples Experience represents an opportunity to uplift this community at a critical time in Canada’s reconciliation with Indigenous people.
“Starting this story with the story of Indigenous people is what we mean by decolonization. … It’s time to change that story once and for all.” – Mayor Don Iveson (Edmonton Journal, June 29, 2021)
The Indigenous Peoples Experience serves as a welcoming and accessible platform to share knowledge, promote discussion, and reflect on the past. Local Indigenous interpreters greet guests and impart their own personal stories and history, adding unique depth to the experience for guests of all backgrounds. The strength of the local Indigenous community shines when Indigenous guests recognize the names, voices, and faces that surround them. This shared knowledge does not just exist in the past – it is here today.
How we did it during COVID-19.
The project’s completion during COVID-19 demonstrates strong collaboration and problem-solving by a local and international project team, which allowed them to deliver on original visitor experience goals and make real-time modifications for post-pandemic operations.
COVID-19 restrictions presented a wide variety of challenges for the project team. During the final stages of implementation, border closures began to impact shipping of specialty items from international manufacturers. Meanwhile, nFusion’s internal team was spread between two countries and four time zones. Unable to travel to Canada, the team successfully implemented and relied on video calls, virtual site-walks, daily remote site meetings, guidance and empowering of onsite resources, and detailed reports to manage installation progress and diagnose technical issues.
In addition, evolving health and safety standards prompted reconsideration of hands-on interactives, cleaning requirements, and social distancing guest flow considerations, necessitating collaborative in-field adjustments during the installation process.
Through these unique challenges, the team and project stakeholders came together to successfully deliver and open a never-before-seen, compelling, and immersive guest experience.
Read more about how the pandemic spurred new approaches to project development and team integration in another of nFusion’s Insights.
The Indigenous Peoples Experience is an impactful and grounding opportunity for guests to learn, feel, and hear the stories of the Indigenous people of the region. Through it all, there is so much knowledge to be shared about the many Indigenous cultures and peoples who have always called this land their home.