Medeia Csoba DeHass & Eric Hollinger

We examine theoretical and practical applications of 3D technology in digital and physical preservation of Arctic and Subarctic Indigenous cultural heritage. A lasting legacy of colonialism in the Circumpolar North is the disconnect between local communities and their material heritage housed at memory institutions around the world. While collection methods varied, collecting activity was entrenched in colonial power relations expressed in the “researcher and the researched” paradigm. With diminished access to their material culture, loss of traditional knowledge ensued, which affected both local communities and global discourse. While postcolonial engagements have been exploring avenues for returning collections knowledge to origin communities, geopolitical realities of the Arctic have limited these efforts. The expenses of long-distance Arctic travel and the decentralized nature of communities, the lack of Indigenous-run museums, and the fact that Indigenous belongings are widely dispersed make it challenging to develop lasting and comprehensive approaches. Many museum objects remain unidentified or misinterpreted due to disengagement between Indigenous communities and ancestral possessions. Recent developments in 3D technologies can re-establish origin and descendant community access to collections, develop community-engaged collaborations and offer decolonizing approaches to collection management, acquisition, and engagement practices. Digital 3D models and physical replicas offer alternative modes of access and opportunities for Arctic and Subarctic communities. Rapid development of digitization and replication technologies reveals a potential for empowering community heritage restoration and perpetuation as well as strengthen abilities of distant stewardship institutions to improve access, improve community collaborations and enhance their capacity for cultural preservation.

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