The development of shipbuilding in Canada peaked during the first half of the nineteenth century, to meet needs of an expanding British empire (Wilson 1994, 2003; Darwin 2009; Sager et al 1990). While the majority of the Atlantic trades were supported by shipbuilders in Quebec and the Maritime Provinces, the development of Canal systems within the Great Lakes, enabling access to the key staple markets, placed a tremendous demand on tonnage. The establishment of shipyards was critical to enabling export of high-volume, low-value bulk cargoes on the Great Lakes-Atlantic route. Furthermore, the need for these shipyards to design ships that were able to navigate both canals and the challenging Lake environment, was central to economic development (Monk 2003).
Today, our built landscape often masks these historic environments, leaving the study of early industrial communities within the remit of museums and archives, whilst occasionally exposed through the effects of commercial development. Yet, we have much to learn from these spaces, especially how we can manage them toward reintegrating them into our local historic environment. What can we learn about the country’s industrial and maritime landscape? How did 19th century industrialization impact the early canals? In what ways has the region’s role as an entrepôt on the Atlantic – Great Lakes route, shaped its material history? These questions highlight the importance of addressing Canada’s historic and contemporary past, whilst considering the connected legacies of inland seas and their vital role to supporting community and economic development.
Through combining theoretical and methodological approaches in historical and maritime archaeology, digital humanities, dendrochronology and dendro-provenancing, physical and human geography including GIS, this two-year project aims to:
• Develop a framework for reengaging local historic environments, through combining research techniques in the humanities, social and physical sciences, toward visualization of past landscapes.
• Devise an approach to geo-visualize archival, archaeological, geophysical and environmental data within 3-D model simulations.
• Create tree chronologies for the Niagara Region, on pine, oak, red oak and burr oak toward interpreting historical and industrial impacts.
• Retrace 19th century transport zones within the Great Lakes, using digitized and non-digitized archival material
• Generate software to create Narrative Objects; multi-modal narratives expressed in Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality.
A primary outcome of this project will be to design a framework for reengaging historic environments. In connecting methodologies across disciplines, we take a contextualized approach to visualizing landscapes, layering research techniques and theories, toward reconstructing the cultural legacies of a 19th century maritime community. Through testing new methodologies in our exploration of this maritime cultural landscape, we will provide scholars and the community with a plan for management and interpretation, with the potential to advance national approaches to our historic places.