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more. One of our goals is to be able to create virtual worlds for museums around the world. (In fact, NDSU recently made such a pitch to a local museum and to one in Germany.) Our interest is in helping people understand the past. More than seeing a few artifacts in a display case, this (3-D imaging) lets people see how people lived and interacted.”

For example, as Snider “built” earth lodges on his computer, others in the lab scanned artifacts, such as tools and house wares used by Mandan Indians of the period. A number of artifacts were borrowed from the North Dakota Historical Society in Bismarck for scan- ning and use in the “On-A-Slant” video. One such artifact was a hoe made from a bison scapula and used in the Mandan gardens. When Lewis and Clark arrived at On-A-Slant in October 1804, they saw only the remains of the village. Decimated by a smallpox epi- demic, surviving Mandans had moved north to join forces with the Hidatsa and Arikara people. Over the past year, NDSU Archaeology Technology Lab staff and students brought the village back to life for people who view the 3-D video at Fort Lincoln.


Tracy Potter, executive director of the Fort Abraham Lincoln Foundation, said the “On-A- Slant” video finally puts the focus on American Indian people who shared their hospitality and expertise about the Upper Great Plains in helping the Lewis and Clark corps stay alive during the winter of 1804-05.

The virtual 3-D video “is timely because of Lewis and Clark,” said Claudia Berg, director of the museum and education division for the North Dakota State Historical Society. “We have a great civilization here. We have a rich and deep history.”

Before sitting down to their computers and laser scanners, the NDSU archaeologists con- ducted thorough scholarly research on the site, the native population and the era. Clark and his team worked to ensure the virtual recon- struction would be as historically accurate as possible. In addition, the team drew on related research regarding the similar Like-A-Fishhook Village, north of Bismarck. Like-A-Fishhook

Village also will be virtually reconstructed by the NDSU lab.

Potter calls the 3-D video “cool.” He anticipates school-age children being especially drawn to it, along with people in their mid-50s who remember donning 3-D glasses for 3-D movies during their childhoods.

Berg, who works with school children and adult visitors at the state Heritage Center on the state Capitol grounds, anticipates the virtual video will be a hit with visitors of any age. The Heritage Center plans to eventually install a kiosk in which viewers may see a virtual depic- tion of Like-A-Fishhook Village. Alongside the kiosk will be actual Like-A-Fishhook artifacts discovered before the Missouri River was dammed and Lake Sakakawea flooded the site.

“The technology will capture the younger visitor’s attention and provide a method of interaction that children are accustomed to using,” Berg said. Technology has a role to play in interpreting history, she added.

“For me, the biggest asset this virtual presen- tation can provide is reconstructing a site that no longer exists,” Berg said. “It could provide the viewer with a look at the village – seeing relationships to homes. Were they log structures or earth lodges? How close together were they? What were the sounds of this village? How can we read the objects left by the people who lived there? By combining other resources, such as photographs and oral traditions with archaeol- ogy, what are the stories this village can tell?”

Although the lab’s success keeps employees busy with a long to-do list, Clark says “think- ing of the future possibilities keeps me awake at night.”

  • Deneen Gilmour


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