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Preserving heritage through digital

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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 has brought Swiss mountain guides to the Rocky Mountains to share their mountaineering knowledge.

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

Called Edelweiss Villagethe 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 located north of the town of Golden in the regional district of Columbia Shushwap, a rural area with no heritage laws. Potential buyers would therefore not be required to preserve the buildings.

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

A different solution

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

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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. Its sale came as a shock to him.

I was a little surprised. How can such a heritage site be sold? I come from Europe [et] I think of old monuments [là-bas]… you will never have heritage sites for salehe said.

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

The foundation has so far raised a third of the 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.

He’s the professor at the University of Calgary Peter Dawson who leads the team responsible for digitally preserving the site. According to him, it is the best solution for places that cannot be physically saved due to factors such as money or the environment.

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

Model of the chalet.

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

Photo: Provided by Digital Heritage Archive

The team focuses on significant sites that have no official designation of significance.

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

He believes that raising public awareness is key to preserving heritage and that digital archives help by making these sites available to people who cannot physically access them.

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