The university creates virtual 3D replicas of boarding schools


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dated: 2022-11-25 05:50:12 .

Photo: The Canadian Press

The artist’s conceptual image is shown in the composition of the undated brochure. A new project by the University of Calgary’s Taylor Family Digital Library is creating 3D digital records of some boarding schools in Alberta. Working with Indigenous communities, the library created accurate virtual and physical models of three former boarding schools in Alberta.

A new University of Calgary project is creating 3D digital maps of some boarding schools in Alberta.

The Taylor Family Digital Library, in collaboration with Indigenous communities in Alberta, has created accurate virtual and physical models of the three former residences, with plans for the future.

Professor Peter Dawson, who led the project, said it was important to preserve a dark part of Canada’s history.

“Why preserve those buildings associated with so much tragedy and human trauma? This is precisely why we are working with (three groups) to preserve these schools. Because these schools are really witnesses of history and places of conscience,” said Dawson, director of the university’s Department of Anthropology and Archaeology.

“They are the physical manifestation in name only of an education system that has caused great harm and suffering to generations of Indigenous children.”

An estimated 150,000 Indigenous children have been forced to attend boarding schools in Canada for more than a century. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has detailed abuses in schools, including emotional, physical and sexual abuse of children.

Using lidar technology and original blueprints, three-dimensional images of the Old Sun Indian Residential School in the Siksika Nation, east of Calgary, the Blue Quills School in St. Paul, Alta., and the Poundmaker’s Lodge Carriage House that was once part of it, created by the Edmonton Indian Residential School in St. Alberta, Alta.

The stories of boarding school survivors will be embedded in each virtual replica.

“The sad reality is that many, many people do not know about this story. “I thought it was important to preserve them digitally because young people were angry when they heard more and more about the dormitories,” said Vivian Ayoungman, 75, who spent nine years at Old Sun School.

“I thought we really had to do something. We cannot participate in erasing our own history. We have to have evidence. We want to preserve this building so that people know that it was not a figment of our imagination. That this really happened to us.”

Ayoungman eventually became a teacher and now works at a community college housed in the old dormitory building she attended as a child.

“We have really painful memories from the days when it was a boarding school,” she said.

“I shrunk at a very young age because I spoke my language. I came to this school without speaking a word of English.”

Ayoungman said the dorm survivors are getting old and the digital record will ensure their story lives on.

“There is no risk of forgetting it. The duration of digitization has been preserved,” she said.

Her nephew Kent Ayoungman, 42, said both his parents and grandparents attended boarding schools and he had no idea what they went through.

“When they were growing up, they never talked about their experiences, what they went through. So we didn’t really know,” he said.

“Who wants to hear what they went through while they were in these places? It just changed the lives of our people. We need to talk about it. Our people need to hear these stories about what they’ve been through.”

The project is entering a second phase where the original site surrounding the three boarding schools – a landscape of hockey pitches, sports fields, gardens and stables – will be digitally documented to provide a more complete picture of everyday life at the schools.

The scans will eventually be archived at each former school and the National Center for Truth and Reconciliation.


The university creates virtual 3D replicas of boarding schools

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