Preserving heritage through digital

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Preserving heritage through this digital

One ​​of the Swiss chalets of the Edelweiss Village at north of Golden, British Columbia.

University of Calgary professors have chosen to digitally preserve a site in British Columbia that has had an important role in the history of ;mountaineering in Canada.

Western Canada is known for its mountaineering, but that wasn't the case in the years following the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1885.

This one brought Swiss mountain guides to the Rockies to share their mountaineering knowledge.

To house these guides and their families, six Swiss-style chalets spread over 20 hillside acres were built north of Golden between 1910 and 1912.

Called Edelweiss Village, the place is now for sale for $2.3 million.

According to the National Trust for Canada, Edelweiss Village is one of the 10 most endangered places in the country. The site is north of the town of Golden in the Shushwap Regional District of Columbia, a rural area with no heritage laws. Potential buyers would therefore not be required to preserve the buildings.

The Swiss Edelweiss Village Foundation was therefore created by a group that hopes to buy and preserve the site, but nothing is guaranteed.

Johann Roduit is one of the founders of the Swiss Edelweiss Village Foundation. He himself moved from Switzerland to British Columbia and saw the impact of the village and of Swiss immigration in general in Canada.

He believes the village is not only important for the heritage of Canada and Switzerland, but also for the culture of mountaineering around the world. It was a shock to him when it went on sale.

I was a little surprised. How can such a heritage site be sold? I'm from Europe [and] I think of old monuments [there]…you'll never have heritage sites for sale, he says.

The initial plan is to have the site captured digitally so people in Switzerland can see it. The organization is also working to raise funds to purchase and preserve it.

The foundation has so far raised a third funds for an initial deposit of $100,000 through crowdfunding. It will continue to negotiate with vendors to come to an agreement with the aim of reviving the region with a concept of sustainable cultural tourism.

University of Calgary professor Peter Dawson leads the team digitally preserving the site. According to him, it is the best solution for places that cannot be physically saved due to factors like money or the environment.

Using a terrestrial laser scanner, Peter Dawson and his team capture data on heritage sites to create virtual replicas which are then accessible online.

A rendering of Edward Fuez Cottage, one of the buildings in Edelweiss Village, created by the University of Calgary Digital Heritage Archive .

The team focuses on meaningful sites that have no formal designation of importance.

Essentially, we want digitally preserve these local heritage sites, so that there will be a record of them should something happen to them, but also so that the public, through the public face of the archives, can learn more about their history and significance for this particular community , explains Peter Dawson.

He believes that public awareness is essential to the preservation of heritage and that digital archives contribute by putting these sites s available to people who cannot physically access it.

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