Capturing Landscape Change Through Repeat Photography
With more than 7,000 image pairs from 19 summers of fieldwork, the Mountain Legacy Project reveals significant landscape changes in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Based at the University of Victoria, the project team works with researchers to highlight the impacts of climate change on Canada’s mountain landscape. The team uses historical photographs taken by surveyors with the Geological Survey of Canada, the Department of the Interior’s Dominion Land Survey, and other relevant government departments from 1861 to 1958 and travels deep into the backcountry to capture the same images with modern camera equipment. Repeat photography allows for an analysis of ecological and cultural change throughout the Canadian Rockies.
“People can clearly see the significant changes brought about by a shifting climate, human activity and development, and ecological processes.” – Eric Higgs, UVic environmental scientist (University of Victoria)
Through archival research, the project accesses the world’s largest collection of historical mountain photographs and collaborates with researchers, graduate and undergraduate students to capture current images from exact locations in the backcountry. The team interprets and analyzes images to create image pairs available to researchers, ecologists, students, historians, mountaineers, environmentalists, and others interested in landscape change.
From 1998 to 2001, the project began at the University of Alberta with re-photography of M.P. Bridgland’s 1915 survey of central Jasper National Park (the Bridgland Repeat Photography Project). By 2002, it became the Rocky Mountain Repeat Photography Project as the scope expanded to Waterton Lakes National Park. In 2006, knowledge of collections allowed for growth outside of the Rocky Mountains and the project became the Mountain Legacy Project. The current focus of the team is the re-photography of images from Kootenay National Park (1922, 1923) and Crowsnest Pass (1913, 1914) as well as the secure storage, digital reproduction and dissemination of archival photographs at the Library and Archives Canada and University of Victoria.
The renewed website and new map-based tool allow for image side-by-side comparisons as well as the ability to zoom into pictures. To explore, check out explore.mountainlegacy.ca. The University of Victoria has also issued a media release about the project.
Mary Sanseverino is part of the Mountain Legacy Project team and is a mountaineer and photographer as well as a retired computer science instructor. She was featured in the Canadian Mountain Network’s International Mountain Day live stream on December 11, 2017, where she spoke more about the Mountain Legacy Project. A recording of the live stream will be available on the CMN website shortly.
Along with the Victoria Photography Meetup Group, Mary is hosting a sold-out event in celebration of International Mountain Day on December 13 in Victoria, B.C. For more information, please see our event website.