From Concept to Reality


The Uncover Recover project was a journey that took the participating students and the support team down a year-long path. The project’s goal was to allow students to encounter and investigate cultural objects from the Indigenous Collection at the Royal Ontario Museum from three perspectives – retrospection on the past, introspection on the present, and speculation on the future. For each student it was an exploration of discovery, realization, and activation on a deeply personal level. To help students navigate this path the research and teaching assistant team needed to understand what each student envisioned for their project and provide the practical digital means to achieve it without influencing the student’s creative process.

Our first step was to pool our ideas, skills, and resources to determine who could help whom. As we became familiar with each project it was not surprising that each of the nine students gravitated to various of the assistants organically, finding the support team member whose experience best suited their project.

Samaa Ahmed, a recent graduate of the OCADU Digital Futures Program was a perfect fit to get this process started. Samaa’s experience and research in the intersection of global culture and digital technologies helped the students find the direction and technologies they needed to express their ideas. Samaa’s contribution helped establish a context for the final site and offered students a clear sense of possibility for their individual sections.

To create a speculative archaeology requires dimensional thinking, so several students elected to work in 3D environments. Wendy Whaley quickly became our 3D expert. She guided the students as they learned the digital modelling techniques and software to accomplish their goals. Wendy’s experience in the film industry, her work on motion picture special effects and CGI projects, and her research in coenesthesia (the sense of embodiment that arises from the combination of all sensory input) allowed her to respond to the student’s conceptual explorations with deep sensitivity.

Several of the projects involved game theory, hypertext treatments and other interactive or activated text-based approaches. Sam Strong, our resident expert in this area helped students resolve technical issues in the mechanics of code writing and site design. Sam’s knowledge of web-development helped the students push the boundaries and potentials in web-art and text-based approaches. Sam’s experience, skill, and personal philosophy of code writing practice allowed the students to find ways to tell and understand the stories they were working with as they explored old and new digital territories, interfaces and innovative approaches.

Bernard Leroux, an experienced industry filmmaker, photographer and recent graduate of the Integrated Art Media and Design program at OCAD acted as both Teaching and Research Assistant during the course of the project. The Uncover/Recover journey spanned not only considerable territory of the mind but also covered a lot of physical territory both on and off campus.

Bernard attended two of the several field trips undertaken during the project, one to the ROM collection and later to the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation on Manitoulin Island. In this role he provided many of the stills and video components for the individual projects and worked tirelessly to support the students’ unfolding aspirations. As a Métis/Anishinaabe person, Bernard related closely to the concept and creative potential of Uncover/Recover and was thrilled to serve on the project.

The car drive through a northern landscape in the opening sequence of the website is a metaphor for time travel, exploration, and discovery. The motion graphics represent stars – wayfinders for the individual projects and cultural references to the inner exploration each project represents. Anishinaabe musician David DeLeary and Bernard Leroux collaborated on this sequence, with Bernard Leroux providing the visuals and David DeLeary contributing his distinctive style of musical composition and audio production. David also created musical and sound components in key places throughout the site as a singer, songwriter, audio engineer, musician, vocalist and producer. His influence is evident throughout.

MAAIINGAN Productions led by David Shilling is an Indigenous web-developer, video production company, graphic design firm, and online publisher of MUSKRAT Magazine. MAAIINGAN began working with Uncover/Recover from late fall 2017, recording the project for an upcoming documentary video. MAAIINGAN also designed and implemented the Uncover/Recover website. MAAIINGAN took on the task of managing the convergence of many disparate components and media onto one complex website. They worked with us tirelessly to put the site together, helping us to stay on target and keeping the project moving forward through the many challenges we faced along the way. We are grateful that they always kept their cool during the production of this multi-faceted project.

Elisha Lim was the project manager for Uncover/Recover. Elisha was our rock. As the go-to person for coordination of the project, Elisha was a responsive and highly effective administrator and point person, helping us stay on track even when the track was a moving target from time to time. Her devotion to coordinating events and field trips, arranging studio and lab time, and helping the students in so many ways to complete the project was nothing short of inspiring.

Bonnie Devine was the project leader and instructor for Uncover/Recover. An Anishinaabe artist and educator, Bonnie developed the initial project proposal, the course curriculum, and in collaboration with OCAD University, the Royal Ontario Museum, and the Province of Ontario secured the necessary academic and cultural supports and financial resources for the project. Her concern for the student’s experience and the excellence of the final project was a constant reminder of why we were there.

Uncover/Recover was a complex undertaking that required the resources, initiative, and creativity of all of us, a once in a lifetime project that we are all proud to have had such a significant role in creating.

~Bernard Leroux


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Cree Translator

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Anishinaabe Translator

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