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Lecture | Digital Archaeology Group

Exploring the Potential of 3D Imaging within the Repatriation of First Nation Cultural Material

  • Alicia Walsh (MA graduate Leiden University, Freelance Digital Archaeologist)
Wednesday 12 May 2021
Digital Archaeology Group


In its historical process of internal colonization, the Canadian government enforced the elimination of the rights and cultures of Indigenous Peoples. This included the confiscation of objects with sacred value, which have since been housed in museums both within Canada and abroad. The repatriation of these cultural items is instrumental to the reconciliation between Indigenous Peoples and settler societies, and to preserve and revitalize cultures that past governments aimed to eliminate. This movement towards repatriating objects comes at a time when museums are modernizing their archival and exhibition practices by using digital technologies, particularly 3D imaging. Digitizing artifacts undergoing repatriation has been met with scrutiny due to privacy and intellectual property rights; however, collaborative projects, such as between the Smithsonian Institute and the Delaware and Tlingit Nations, have proven beneficial for both parties. 

This presentation will first provide an overview of the current state of repatriation in Canada, focusing on the legal, ethical and logistical aspects that should be considered before digitizing repatriated material. After discussing the practicalities of creating 3D models of ancestral artifacts, concentrating on photogrammetry and 3D laser scanning, I will ultimately elaborate on whether 3D imaging can be used as a tool, not to ‘digitally repatriate’, but for reciprocal heritage preservation.

To the lecture (Kaltura Live Room)

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