Singing the Praises of Digital History

Dr. Heather Sparling

Dr. Heather Sparling

A Cape Breton University professor is using the digital technology of tomorrow to help Nova Scotians understand the importance of yesterday’s cultural events.

Dr. Heather Sparling, Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology, is using the university’s recently upgraded Rotary Music Performance Room and Digitization Lab to develop an interactive digital exhibit on Nova Scotia mining disaster songs.

The space, developed with funding support from the Nova Scotia Research and Innovation Trust (NSRIT), features an array of new and advanced equipment, digital HD video cameras and a state-of-the-art backup system for archival materials.

It is a busy spot. The equipment has been used in recent months to document Acadian tradition-bearers, edit video of Gaelic-speaking musicians and to record songs about the now-defunct Sydney steel plant.

Dr. Sparling’s exhibit will tour small mining and industrial museums throughout the province, providing local curators and staff with an alternative way to share provincial history. The free exhibit will demonstrate how intangible culture such as music can be “displayed” in museums.

As music is a key part of Nova Scotia’s heritage, Dr. Sparling believes the exhibit will help the local museums draw new visitors.

“Having state-of-the-art technology is essential to ensure sustainable conservation of archival materials,” says Dr. Sparling, noting that mining disaster songs are part of the region’s unique cultural record.

The Rotary room and Digitization lab will support even greater community collaboration efforts as CBU moves forward with new approaches to disseminating research online and digital archiving of all types of media, says Dr. Sparling.

Dr. Sparling is Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Musical Traditions.

Photo "Moose River, 1936", Allen Fraser, photographer, 1936; NSA, CHNS Radio Station
Collection, acc. 1992-396 no. 64


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