Team from Camosun College turns Witness Blanket into virtual reality

Team from Camosun College turns Witness Blanket into virtual reality
Jessica Sigurdson/CMHR
The Witness Blanket on display at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg

A virtual reality project may soon bring an art instillation commemorating the tragic legacy of residential schools to First Nations across Canada.

A visual arts student and VR expert from Camosun College spent several days scanning the Victoria artist Carey Newman’s “Witness Blanket” project at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights this week.

The large-scale art installation is twelve meters long and is made from over 800 items reclaimed from residential schools, churches, government buildings, friendship centres, treatment centres and post secondary institutions.

The scan will be used to create a VR experience that enables people to engage with the rich narratives embedded within each of the blanket’s artifacts and objects.

The instillation was made to recognise and commemorate the trauma of the residential school era and to support ongoing efforts towards truth, justice and reconciliation.

Applied Research Technologist Matt Zeleny worked with visual arts student Louise Black, who is a member of the Tsawout First Nation.

“It’s an enormous project, and comes with great honour and great weight,” said Black in a statement. “It is important to reach an understanding of present and future, through an understanding of the past. It is a principle that carries through in my own artwork and one that is central to The Witness Blanket.”

Newman is very happy the piece will be able to go even further, over the last few years it had been touring Canada extensively before arriving at the museum.

“When I was approached about this idea, I was excited… I could immediately see the potential to follow through on that initial dream. This project has always been about sharing truth, and this will help to further that goal,” said Newman in a statement.

Visitors cannot touch the artifacts on the “Witness Blanket” as it is covered with Plexiglas panels, but they will in the virtual world

Camosun Innovates, the regional applied research and development hub within Camosun College, is where the team is from.

With files from CBC News


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