February 14, 2012
Métis history to be preserved in one-of-a-kind virtual museum
Work has begun on a made-in-Alberta virtual museum that will utilize cutting-edge technologies and design elements to preserve Métis history and the nearly extinct Michif language for generations to come.
The online resource – which will offer content in English, French and Michif - is a joint initiative between NAIT, the Michif Cultural and Métis Resource Institute in St. Albert and Avatar Media.
“NAIT and Avatar Media will be bringing Canadian history to life through this virtual museum,” said retired Sen. Thelma Chalifoux, Métis elder at NAIT and a key resource for this project. “It’s a history that is so rich and so interesting.”
The virtual museum will feature the artifacts and documents currently held within the Michif Cultural and Métis Resource Institute – which Chalifoux founded. She notes the history of the Métis is such an important part of Canada’s story.
“This initiative is being designed as a locally-based but globally accessible and world-class archive that will address the very real need for a truly public resource for students and researchers interested in a language and culture that is teetering near extinction,” said NAIT’s Director of Applied Research and Scholarship, Dr. Klay Dyer.
Avatar Media is building the virtual museum. The company has a long-standing relationship with Aboriginal groups in Canada, having worked on several collaborative projects over the past nine years.
“This project will not only enrich the lives of Canadians, but will showcase valuable stories that will help us to better understand our heritage,” said Jaro Malanowski, president and CEO of Avatar Media.
Visitors to the online museum will be greeted by Chalifoux, who will act as a tour guide. Users will be able to explore different “rooms,” with themes like Culture, Music and Language. In these rooms, they will be able to rotate and examine historically-significant objects using a mouse, and eventually view content in stereoscopic 3-D.
A key aspect of the museum will be an oral history archive, containing audio clips of elders speaking Michif and recalling the history of Michif-speaking people. Michif - the language of the Métis - has been classified as an endangered language in UNESCO’s Red Book of Endangered Languages. It’s believed there are less than 1,000 Michif speakers left in North America – with most of those in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and North Dakota.
Eventually, the virtual museum will also contain a documentary on Chalifoux, the first Métis woman in Canada’s Senate, appointed by former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien in 1997 to represent Alberta. Chalifoux acted as a key land claims negotiator, was the founder of the Slave Lake Native Friendship Centre and was instrumental in developing the Métis Association of Alberta Land and Welfare Departments.
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