A screen shot from the award-winning website Journey into Time Immemorial which depicts First Nations life hundreds of years ago.

First Nations project nets UN award

October 30, 2008

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By Marianne Meadahl

A website collaboration between Simon Fraser University and the Fraser Valley’s Xa:ytem Longhouse Interpretive Centre has received a major international multimedia award from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

UNESCO’s international committee responsible for audiovisual, image, sound and new technologies has awarded the websiteJourney into Time Immemorial with its top prize – the Grand Prix.

The interactive website, which has also won awards in Canada and the U.S., is a collaborative project involving the SFU Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology and the Xa:ytem Centre in Mission. It has generated well over a million hits since it was launched last spring.

“We began this project with a vision of presenting an experience of a living history, where the static objects in the SFU and Xa:ytem museums could be seen in use, as part of a living community,” says Barbara Winter, curator of SFU’s museum.

“The project is an excellent example of SFU collaborating with an external First Nations agency to create a product of world calibre excellence.”

The website is based on First Nations traditional knowledge and oral history and provides a picture of life in the Fraser Valley as it was hundreds of years ago.

Winter and staff from the SFU Learning and Instructional Development Centre’s Media Design group collaborated with First Nations representatives, including Linnea Battel of the Xa:ytem Longhouse, to produce the site. First Nations community members and a team of SFU students participated in the project.

The teams digitally reconstructed a pithouse and longhouse village and incorporated First Nations actors to depict early life in the region. “Using actors and inserting them into landscapes allowed us to show cultural continuity and the strength of tradition,” says Winter.

The site was one of many being considered for the U.N. prize. Others were from France, Hungary, Taiwan and the U.S.

The site was developed with a financial investment from the Department of Canadian Heritage through its Virtual Museum of Canada initiative.

The website's other awards include:

  • 2008 Columbus International Film and Video Festival - “Silver Chris Award” for best overall interactive online experience
  • 2008 University and College Designers Association - Silver in Electronic Media Category for Entire Website (Gold was not awarded)
  • 2008 Digital Education Achievement Award, Center for Digital Education and Center for Digital Government - Winner in Learning and Engagement Category
  • 2008 Horizon Interactive Awards - Gold in University/College Website category
  • 2008 CNIE/RCIE Media Festival Winner - Award of Excellence in the Post-Secondary/Interactive category
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