Virtual reality program to capture 19th century Esquimalt

A preview of a 3D virtual reality program was unveiled during a Canada 150 celebration at St. Peter and Paul’s Anglican Parish May 5. Photo by Scott Johnson

A preview of a 3D virtual reality program was unveiled during a Canada 150 celebration at St. Peter and Paul’s Anglican Parish May 5. Photo by Scott Johnson

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

The authors of a 3D virtual reality program are working to transport viewers back in time to Esquimalt in the 19th Century.

Local optometrist Victor Flett is part of a community group developing a three dimensional snapshot of what Esquimalt’s Songhees Nation and Britain’s Royal Navy base looked like in the 1860s.

A sneak peak of their project was offered to those attending the St. Peter and St. Paul’s Anglican Parish Canada 150 event on May 5. Strapping on a pair of Google Cardboard viewing glasses, people could see what both the church and some of the structures in Dockyard looked like during that period.

Flett says the project is an excellent method to document and celebrate the shared histories of both First Nations people and Esquimalt’s military community.

“The histories of both these communities are permanently connected in an amazing way, from the first contact and the establishment of the Royal Navy base and colonization, through the Esquimalt Village and Fort Victoria, which led to the Confederation of Canada 150 years ago.”

Technical assistance is being provided by The Fireflight Group, a consulting organization for indigenous and local communities, and Gord Holden, Director of the Immersive Technology Department at the Kelowna-based Heritage Christian Online School.

Holden and Flett began work on the software in December 2016. In the past, Holden has developed graphic software to show students famous historical sites such as Rome’s Coliseum and Egypt’s pyramids using Active Worlds Software.

He says this latest project is a change for him as an educator because First Nations students will become a crucial part of the project, helping them to write their community’s history.

“We are hoping to get Songhees Nation students from our school, who don’t currently live in Esquimalt and are scattered in locations across the country, to become engaged with elders in the band and contribute to this project by using technology and distance education,” says Holden. “The interaction with others who represent their identity gives them a vitally important connection to who they are and where they came from.”

Flett was encouraged by the presence of Songhees Nation Chief Ron Sam who stopped by the historic church on May 5 in a show of support for the project.

While he says a finished product is months away from completion, Flett and his partners hope to have a more detailed virtual reality segment of the Songhees Nation and Dockyard for National Aboriginal June 21.

For more information on this project contact Flett at vbflett@gmail.com.

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