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Pitch-Carleton Partners with Kitikmeot Heritage to Create Cyber Atlas of Historical Arctic Expedition

Ottawa - Fraser Taylor, distinguished research professor and director of Carleton University’s Geomatics and Cartographic Research Centre (GCRC), in co-operation with the Kitikmeot Heritage Society, is developing a cybercartographic atlas of the Fifth Thule Expedition led by Knud Rasmussen between 1921 and 1924.

Some Inuit elders still remember the Rasmussen visit and have stories to tell which will enrich the understanding of the expedition. These will be included in the atlas. Inuit communities along the expedition’s route will have the opportunity to comment on the material Rasmussen collected and provide an Inuit, rather than a Danish, perspective.

Although not well known to Canadians, Rasmussen is a Danish national hero and an outstanding observer of Arctic Canada. This project provides an exciting view of conditions in Canada's North at the time of the expedition. Most of the extensive documents and artifacts related to this expedition are in the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen.

A SSHRC Connection grant enabled Taylor and Amos Hayes of GCRC, together with Brendan Griebel, Pam Gross and Darren Keith of the Kitikmeot Heritage Society, to visit the museum and discuss the virtual return of some of the artifacts from the expedition, which could be included in the atlas and made available to Inuit communities.

The issue of repatriation of museum artifacts to their original place of origin is a contentious issue. As a result, digital repatriation is a term disliked by anthropologists who prefer digital access. This does not work in Canada's north where limited bandwidth will not allow direct access to museum collections. The Atlas will be technically designed so that it can be widely available in northern communities.

The museum is treating this atlas as a pilot project on making their collection digitally available. The atlas technology is a unique way of doing this as it utilizes distributed data as opposed to just being available on the cloud etc., which does not work for Inuit communities.

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