Ryerson University issued the following announcement on July 22.
A digital recreation of a traditional longhouse from the Wendat-Huron community, shows the intricate details of the inside of the structure.
Hundreds of years ago, the town of Whitchurch-Stouffville, northeast of Toronto, was home to the largest Indigenous city that has been excavated to-date in North America. During this time, almost 100 structures, called longhouses, represented a complex city made up of the Wendat-Huron community. The site, originally named “Jean Baptiste Lainé,” is an important part of history.
To help preserve this history, the Whitchurch-Stouffville Museum and Community Centre, external linkreached out to Ryerson’s Michael Carter, professor in FCAD’s School of Creative Industries. Carter was asked to create an enhanced digital, physical and virtual experience that could recreate the longhouse community. This experience is embedded within a year-long exhibit at the museum called “Archeology Alive.”
While recreating a piece of history may seem daunting, Carter saw it as an opportunity to improve upon technology he previously created for the Museum of Ontario Archeology, external link.
Carter assembled a team of faculty, students and specialists from multiple departments at Ryerson University, Sheridan College, George Brown College, Western University and industry partners, to develop a multi-sensory experience that takes a look inside the past. Carter and his teams worked closely with the Wendat-Huron community.
“This is an experiential learning environment. We have built something that goes beyond an individual virtual reality experience, and have made it something that a group of people can explore together,” said Carter.
Two women use a controller and TV to view the longhouse
Museum visitors can fully immerse themselves in a piece of history through this multi-sensory experience that includes the authentic sounds and aromas of a longhouse.
Carter broke down how the human senses were incorporated into the exhibit:
Touch: Carter worked with Ryerson’s Department of Architectural Science to develop an enclosure that replicates a traditional longhouse, including a bark exterior (in this case, rubber bark, so not to disturb the other artifacts).
Sight: 2D flatscreen experience for multiple people to get a 360 degree view of what the inside, and outside, of the longhouse would look like.
Sound: The enclosure was built to mimic the acoustics inside a traditional 78-metre longhouse. Visitors hear animals and people coughing.
Smell: Carter and his teams worked with their Indigenous partners to access sweetgrass, birchbark, corn and sinew cords to imitate the real aromas of a longhouse.
Carter acknowledged that this project has been trans-disciplinary – with valuable input from partners both inside and outside of the Ryerson community, noting that Ryerson is a leader in an inter-institutional way of thinking. He also credited Ryerson’s student groups, which were led by professor Vincent Hui, as integral in completing the project.
“Professor Hui and the student design studio team from Ryerson’s Department of Architectural Science really brought the project to life by building a physical structure to accompany the technology,” Carter said.
Five people pose in front of a round structure
Students from Ryerson’s Department of Architectural Science pose with the physical structure of the longhouse.
“We now have the original source material and there is an opportunity to build more elements,” he said. What can be added? Carter will continue to work with the Wendat-Huron people to add avatar characters. “Working directly with the community allows them to build an accurate representation of themselves.”
The Jean-Baptiste Lainé portion of the Whitchurch-Stouffville “Archeology Alive” exhibit opened earlier this month. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/WSMuseum, external link.
Original source: https://www.ryerson.ca/news-events/news/2019/07/preserving-indigenous-history-with-technology/