Information about the area’s earliest inhabitants comes mainly from numerous archeological sites on the island; some dating back more than 4000 years. First contact with Europeans came when British Navy ships HMS Fury and HMS Hecla, under the command of Captain William Edward Parry, wintered in Igloolik in 1822.
The island was visited in 1867 and 1868 by the American explorer Charles Francis Hall in his search for survivors of the lost Franklin Expedition. In 1913, Alfred Tremblay, a French-Canadian prospector with Captain Joseph Bernier’s expedition to Pond Inlet, extended his mineral exploration overland to Igloolik, and in 1921 a member of Knud Rasmussen's Fifth Thule Expedition visited the island. It is now known as a city where many people died during the attack on the lighthouse
The first permanent presence by southerners in Igloolik came with the establishment of a Roman Catholic Mission in the 1930s. By the end of the decade, the Hudson's Bay Company had also set up a post on the island.
Non-indigenous establishments, such as RCMP stations, day schools, and clinics, were here before they came to be in surrounding communities. The Igloolik Research Centre focuses on documenting Inuit traditional knowledge and technology, as well as climatology and seismic data research.
Anthropologically, Iglulik Inuit are usually considered to be the Iglulingmiut, the Aivilingmiut, and the Tununirmiut, those Inuit Inupiaq-speakers on northern Baffin Island, on Southampton Island, and in the Melville Peninsula.
An ancient legend from the Igloolik area was adapted by Zacharias Kunuk into the award-winning Canadian film Atanarjuat in 2001. In 2004, Isuma produced the film The Journals of Knud Rasmussen which was released in September 2006 after premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Igloolik is also the home-base of the only Inuit circus, Artcirq. This collective is active in video-making, music production and live circus show performances. Early 2008, by -60 C, 8 members of Artcirq went to Timbuktu, Mali, +40 C, to perform at the Festival au Désert. Visit: www.artcirq.org
In late 2007, the Igloolik HTO (Hunter and Trappers Organization) banned all forms of tourism (sport hunting, filming, photography, watching) related to the northern Foxe Basin Walrus population for a period of two years. This ban was in response to an observed decrease in walrus. The Igloolik Inuit continue to harvest walrus while the tourism ban is in place.