The Museum of Ontario Archaeology, Canada

Rhonda Bathurst, 15.05.2017
A partnership to recreate a longhouse in virtual reality

The Museum of Ontario Archaeology in Canada has partnered with Sustainable Archaeology: Western, a collaborative initiative between the University of Western Ontario and McMaster University, Ontario, to create a virtual-reality experience that allows visitors to explore a 16th-century First Nations longhouse using the HTC Vive system. 

 The reconstruction of the longhouse is similar to the dwellings from the Lawson Site, a circa AD 1500 Iroquoian village that stood on the museum’s grounds. The museum has adapted an older exhibit space to provide a dedicated virtual-reality chamber where visitors can explore the experience.

The virtual reconstruction uses techniques from film, television and gaming industries. It is based on previous physical and virtual reconstructions, as well as archaeological, ethnohistoric and oral history research.  

Objects inside the longhouse include 3D-scans of artefacts excavated from the Lawson Site. Visitors have five minutes to explore the longhouse and its setting, while trained guides provide tailored contextual narration.  

We have found that visitors of all ages are excited by the exhibit, finding the opportunity an incredibly immersive educational experience. For most, this is their first opportunity to try out virtual reality.

The reconstruction was developed by Michael Carter, with assistance from Craig Barr of Polymorphic3D as part of his doctoral dissertation for the Department of Anthropology at Western University.The HTC Vive system is on loan from Sustainable Archaeology.

Fees from the VRchaeology exhibit ($2 per experience) will be used to expand existing content and develop new virtual material.

Rhonda Bathurst is the executive director of the Museum of Ontario Archaeology