A long time ago, someone at the Government of the Northwest Territories decided to order at least one flask with the government’s logo emblazoned on the front.
A photo of the flask is found on the @retro_gnwt Instagram account, where Yellowknifer Keelen Simpson has started collecting photos of vintage territorial government swag, art, and design.
“Growing up in the north, GNWT swag has been part of my life,” she said, noting it’s common to find random items lurking in corners of homes and offices.
“It’s fun to see the progression of things from the 80s and things from the 90s [to today].”
In a former job, Simpson worked in the same office as the government employees responsible for the “visual identity program” rolled out a few years ago.
“Seeing the amount of work and thought that goes into designing something to have consistency across the GNWT was really interesting,” she said.
“It’s crazy to think that for so long, it seems like each department was responsible for its own design.
“So there is no consistency … to what different departments were doing.”
Simpson is surprised some of the swag has survived for so long, and suspects communities outside Yellowknife may have a richer collection than the city does.
The flask, for example, hails from Inuvik.
She also has a photo of a Public Works and Services mug that proudly proclaims, “Ready for 1999,” plus an airport logo that may just be unique to the Fort Smith airport.
Simpson is running low on photos of retro swag though. While she has a friend who is on a mission to to find more, she’s also hoping people will start submitting their own photos.
Instagram users can tag their photos “#retrognwt” to help Simpson find them.
“I really want people to send in pictures,” she said.
A retro-GNWT book of uncertain vintage collects writing, art, and photos by NWT residents. Found in an archive in Fort Smith. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio
“I’m not sticking to one kind of media, but anything that has just some fun retro design.”