Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village has always been a haven for those interested in pioneer history. Now, thanks to the University of Calgary’s Alberta Digital Heritage Archive project, part of that history can be digested in a whole new way.
In late July, two members of the project team, Christina Robinson and Madisen Hvidberg, came to Pincher Creek to scan and digitally preserve Kootenai Brown Cabin, one of the many pioneer buildings at the museum.
“We’re always gung-ho about any partnerships, especially one that does relate to one of our buildings, and of course, it being so primary to the history of the site itself and the history of the museum,” says Gord Tolton, education co-ordinator at KBPV.
“Cabins, as much as you try to preserve them, do present challenges, and you never just know when something bad is going to happen,” Gord says.
“God forbid, if something happened to the cabin, at least there will always be this preserved digital record of the cabin itself.”
Relocated to the museum from Waterton Lakes National Park in 1971, the cabin was John George (Kootenai) Brown’s second homestead and features many original furnishings. Brown settled in the Waterton Lakes area in 1877 and was heavily responsible for the establishment and conservation of Waterton Lakes National Park.
Using a terrestrial 3D laser scanner, Christina and Madisen collected data through laser range finding. In this process, millions of laser light points are emitted while the scanner rotates, reflecting off objects and back to the scanner, and that location is recorded in 3D space.
“One of the many advantages of laser scanning for heritage preservation is the speed at which data can be captured. Depending on the level of resolution required, scans can take anywhere from four to eight minutes to complete,” Madisen says.
“For the Kootenai Brown Cabin documentation, Chris and I captured the interior and exterior using 16 scanning locations. This in-field documentation took approximately three hours.”
The project team reached out to the fine folks at KBPV to document the cabin, as it related to a site the team had previously captured digitally.
That site was the cabin’s original location in Waterton, which was discovered by Edwin Knox, a former Parks Canada warden and cultural heritage manager.
Edwin first sought the original location in 2016 to mark the centennial of Kootenai Brown’s passing. Through speaking with locals, as well as using archival records and photos, Edwin was able to identify the location, confirmed by photos and remnants of the original foundation.
The team was asked to digitally capture the site in May 2022, and following their work, decided to digitally preserve the cabin at KBPV as well. In addition to preserving the cabin, they blended the two digital datasets to reconnect the cabin to its original surroundings.
“Cultural heritage really belongs to everyone, and Alberta’s built heritage and heritage landscapes are important representations of this province’s story, people and identities. As such we really believe that everyone should be able to easily view and learn about these places,” Madisen says.
“Digital heritage is easily shared online, which allows anyone in Alberta or the world access to our heritage resources, and the values and stories they represent.”
Following Christina and Madisen’s work at KBPV, the pair registered the scans at their lab at the university using laser control software, then exported to AutoDesk ReCap for data cleaning and export. After documentation, it took two full workdays for the team to process the data, before spending an additional day constructing the web page for the cabin.
Christina and Madisen extend thanks to the folks at KBPV for their assistance, especially Gord Tolton, who provided in-house information and images to help the project.
Those interested in checking out the original data collected by the U of C team can view and download it.