Representation and Replication: The Digital Presentation of Archaeological Artifacts, A Community Case Study for Banks Island, NWT

Regions: Inuvialuit Settlement Region

Tags: social sciences, archaeology

Principal Investigator: Compton, Mary E (2)
Licence Number: 15809
Organization: University of Western Ontario
Licensed Year(s): 2016 2015
Issued: Dec 18, 2015

Objective(s): To use ethnographic methods (participant observation, semi-structured interviews, and focus groups) to examine archaeological engagement in the community of Sachs Harbour on Banks Island, NWT.

Project Description: This research aims to use ethnographic methods (participant observation, semi-structured interviews, and focus groups) to examine archaeological engagement in the community of Sachs Harbour on Banks Island, NWT. In particular, this research will explore whether digital representations and physical replicas could make archaeological objects held in distant repositories more accessible to people in Sachs Harbour. This research aims: 1) to document how community members value archaeological objects; 2) to see whether individuals interact with and perceive archaeological objects differently than digital and physical replicas of the objects; and, 3) to determine if the digital representation of archaeological materials might be used to meet community interests and/or needs.

There are three components to the study methodology: 1) participant observation; 2) focus groups with youth; and, 3) semi-structured interviews with adults. The research team will begin by engaging in participant observation during a visit by Inuvialuit elders and youth from Sachs Harbour to the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre (PWNHC) in Yellowknife. This visit will document the elders' knowledge of archaeological objects in the PWNHC collections and involve the students in digitally documenting archaeological artifacts that were originally excavated on Banks Island but are now curated by the heritage centre. During this time the research team will observe those aspects of the visit that take place in public spaces within the museum. Through the use of field notes, the research team will document observations about people's interactions with the original artifacts and digital and physical replicas of them. Towards the end of the visit, the research team will invite all of the Grade 9 students visiting from Inualthuyak School in Sachs Harbour to participate in a focus group to reflect on their experiences with the original artifacts and representations of them. Letters of information and assent and parental consent forms will be sent home with all of the students who will be participating in the PWNHC trip, and any students who have chosen not to participate in the focus group will be able to continue digitizing artifacts. The research team will also conduct similar focus groups in Inuvik with students from East 3 Secondary School. Participants will be asked to respond to original artifacts, digital replicas and physical replicas. A poster with contact information intended to recruit students for these focus groups (grades 9-12) will be faxed to the East 3 Secondary School in Inuvik. Interested parties will then be able to contact the Principal Investigator directly to indicate their willingness to participate in the study.

In addition to these focus groups, the research team will undertake a maximum of 50 semi-structured interviews with adults that will ask them to respond to various forms of archaeological material and representations. Residents of Sachs Harbour, others with ties to Banks Island, and those who do or have done professional heritage work in the Northwest Territories will be invited to participate in these interviews. Adults participating in the trip to PWNHC, heritage professionals working at the heritage centre, as well as those working at the Inuvialuit Cultural Resource Centre in Inuvik will be approached in person and invited to participate. In addition, a poster with interview recruitment information and researcher contact information will be faxed to the Co-op in Sachs Harbour with a request that it be posted in the foyer, where everyone will see it. Those wishing to be interviewed can contact me directly. Some Inuvialuit elders may prefer to communicate in Inuvialuktun, in which case the research team will work with an Inuvialuktun translator when completing the interviews. The team will conduct interviews in Yellowknife, Sachs Harbour, and Inuvik.

Participants in both the focus groups and interviews will be able to handle artifacts and engage with representations and replicas, some background information will be given on the artifacts and the various technologies used to create the copies, and they will be asked a series of questions. They will be asked to comment on their initial impressions of the artifacts and replicas, to compare the representations or replicas and the original artifacts, and to comment on similarities and differences between the forms. They will also be asked what they see as potential benefits and drawbacks of the different forms.

Focus groups with students will be audio recorded and interviews with adults may be video recorded, audio recorded, or both. Students who do not wish to be audio recorded will not be able to participate in the focus groups. Adult interviewees may opt out of audio and/or video recording, in which case hand written notes will be the only documentation.

This research aims to involve a diverse array of participants including residents of Sachs Harbour and those with ties to Banks Island (both adults and youth), as well as heritage professionals who are currently working in or have previously worked in the Northwest Territories. All participants will be invited to evaluate their experiences engaging with different forms of archaeological material. During focus groups and interviews, participants will be able to handle archaeological artifacts and to experience some cutting edge technologies as they are applied to archaeological imagery. Local involvement in this project will help to inform future strategies for community-based archaeological engagement and help to define the best ways to share archaeological information so that it can make a meaningful contribution to the lives of local adults and youth. This research will provide a clearer understanding of whether emerging technologies could be used to help enhance local educational and cultural programming.

The proposed research has the support of both the Sachs Harbour Hunters and Trappers Committee and the Sachs Harbour Community Corporation. It is also supported by the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, which is a project partner and is assisting with logistics and providing an Inuvialuktun language expert who will participate in the visit to Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, assisting with translation for the elders and writing Inuvialuktun text describing the artifacts.

The results of this research will be disseminated to the community during community meetings in Sachs Harbour and Inuvik, as well as through the lkaahuk Archaeology Project Facebook page and website (currently in development). All participants will have access to the finished PhD dissertation through a link provided to them upon completion. Any named and/or quoted interview participants will be given the opportunity to approve whether, how, and in what context their quoted statements appear in the final products. With participants' permission, copies of the interviews will also be given to the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation's (IRC) Cultural Resource Centre and the Sachs Harbour Community Corporation.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from May 1, 2016 to August 31, 2016.