Applied Geomatics

, Volume 10, Issue 4, pp 361–375 | Cite as

Digital preservation, social history, and the Quon Sang Lung Laundry building: a case study from Fort Macleod, Alberta, Canada

  • Peter Dawson
  • Alireza FarrokhiEmail author
  • Allan Rowe
  • Farzan Baradaran
  • Derek Lichti
Original Paper


Social history focuses on understanding the everyday lives of ordinary people (Richardson 2011, Social history, local history, and historiography: collected essays). The ethnic minorities that made up immigrant communities in North American towns and cities during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries have been of particular interest to social historians (Tosh 2017, From the ‘cape of despair’ to the Cape of Good Hope: letters of the emigrant poor in early nineteenth-century England. Social History 42:480–500). However, language barriers and low rates of literacy often limit the number of first person accounts written by people who belonged to such communities. This paper explores how terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) and 3D reconstructive modeling of heritage buildings can provide new insights into the social history of Chinese immigrants in Alberta during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These technologies were used to rapidly and accurately document the Quon Sang Lung Laundry shop in Fort Macleod, Alberta, prior to its scheduled demolition. The resulting digital data sets were used to construct detailed architectural plans of the building, as well as photorealistic 3D reconstructions of the shop, as it would have appeared at different points in history. The resulting point clouds were further explored to detect and extract evidence of the lived experiences of its occupants. For example, the conflicts and tensions surrounding Chinese laundries, and the discriminatory bylaws that resulted, may be subtly reflected in specific architectural details of the laundry shop, such as evidence for the presence of walls no longer standing. The ability to return to accurate digital models, over and over again, provides unique opportunities to construct social histories of buildings long after they are gone.


Heritage conservation Social history Digital preservation Laser scanning Chinese immigration 


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Copyright information

© Crown 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Anthropology and ArchaeologyUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada
  2. 2.Alberta Culture and Tourism: Historic Resources Management BranchEdmontonCanada
  3. 3.Faculty of Science, Computational Media Design ProgramUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada
  4. 4.Department of Geomatics EngineeringUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada

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