ARCHIVED - Heritage Projects: A Different Perspective

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April 04, 2004— Ottawa, Ontario

Expertise from researchers at the NRC Institute for Information Technology (NRC-IIT) in areas such as broadband communications and digital 3D modeling is bringing a new perspective to a number of important heritage projects across Canada. Despite the diversity of tools, the result is the same, the use of new and innovative technology to provide valuable cultural experiences to far-flung audiences across Canada.

The Broadband Voyage of Captain Bernier


NRC-IIT's Broadband Visual Communications research program and its partners, including Communications Research Centre Canada, recently wrapped up a successful pilot project providing schools from urban, remote and rural communities with an enriching and interactive cultural experience. Using Canada's broadband research and education fibre-optic network, CA*net4, together with the Telesat satellite network, the students engaged experts, mentors and each other via broadband videoconference in an educational project entitled "The Journey of Captain Bernier." The title comes from an exhibit by the Virtual Museum of Canada and Le Musée maritime du Québec recounting an expedition across the Arctic made by Captain Joseph-Elzéar Bernier and his men in the early 20th century, which led to an encounter between the group and the Inuit.

The project linked elementary and high school students from Buckingham and Kangiqsualujjuaq, Québec; Ottawa, Ontario; and Gander and St. John's, Newfoundland, through a series of four videoconferences, in both English and French. Over the course of the sessions, students were introduced to the virtual exhibit and had an opportunity to meet a museum curator who presented artifacts used in the exhibit, including the original navigation tools used by Captain Bernier. Another project highlight included the participation of two Inuit elders from Kangiqsualujjuaq, Quebec, who described Arctic life before the arrival of Europeans and answered students' questions. At the final stage in the project, each class was provided with an opportunity to describe a journey undertaken by someone in their community and to present plans for an adventurous journey that they would like to take.

The project is part of a broad series of activities carried out by the group. In fact, a brief glance at the facility schedule shows a dense list of programming. For example, there are regular violin lessons with Grade 5 students in Kangiqsualujjuaq, Quebec. Two weeks ago, Pinchas Zuckerman, Music Director of the National Arts Centre Orchestra and Roch Carrier, National Librarian of Canada, led a Morning with Mozart session with students at four elementary and high schools, and, in 30 minutes, a throat-singing lesson is scheduled to take place.

"This is the next generation Internet. Why? Because it has bandwidth," said Dr. Martin Brooks, Program Leader. For most of us, even so-called high-speed access connections allow remarkably little information to pass to and from our computers. In the world of broadband visual communication, the doors have been flung wide open and vast amounts of information flow freely in real time. The team is exploring what a next-generation Internet might look like and how users would work in an environment where there are no limits on information exchange and interactivity. Brooks' team is defining what it will take to make a truly usable environment and applications so that, once broadband becomes ubiquitous, users will have the tools they need to take full advantage of this technology.

The Commissariat – Ottawa's Oldest Stone Building

Just a few doors down the hall from Brooks, Paul Amirault is getting ready to launch a new project involving 3D computer modeling. Since 1997, Amirault has headed a unique program that extends NRC-IIT's facilities and expertise with 3D modeling to secondary and college-level students. Known as the Virtual Environment Lab, Amirault and partners from the Bytown Museum, Algonquin College in Ottawa and Miramichi Community College in New Brunswick are set to begin a 3D digital reconstruction of one of Ottawa's oldest buildings, the Commissariat. Built in 1827 as an all-purpose storehouse during the construction of the Rideau Canal system, the building is now the site of the Bytown Museum. The project has received funding from the Virtual Museum of Canada.


Amirault uses the term "digital dig" to describe the process of reconstructing the building according to original specifications, which will shed new light on how the Commissariat was used and functioned within the fledging community of Ottawa. The team will be using original drawings, blueprints, etchings and photographs amassed from a number of sources. During the project, the team will reconstruct not only the Commissariat, but also the immediate surrounding area which sits immediately beside the Houses of Parliament. "Nothing looks the same,' Amirault said. "There was a second building on the site and the lock system is not as it was. We want to give people the impression of traveling back in time."

Detail of earlier reconstruction project.
Detail of earlier reconstruction project.

Using Computer Aided Drawing tools, the latest entertainment industry animation software and high-end computer systems, the team will create far more than a static 3D model of the building and the site. The end product will be a 5-7 minute fully animated sequence showing the building and surrounding area. Using animation programming, textures and effects such as sunlight will be mixed with period artifacts and moving features to enhance the authenticity of the experience.

Enquiries: Media relations
National Research Council of Canada

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