Digital Oral Histories for Reconciliation (DOHR) launches pilot in Nova Scotia schools

Thursday, November 21, 2019
by Marisa Benjamin

The Digital Oral Histories for Reconciliation (DOHR) Project was featured by the Canadian Press (and covered by over 80 news outlets) in an article that discussed the launch of its pilot project in Nova Scotia schools. DOHR, a restorative justice project led by Principal Investigator Dr. Kristina Llewellyn, features a Virtual Reality (VR) experience that takes students into a digitally rendered representation of the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children as a part of a grade 11 Canadian History unit.

The Canadian Press article captures student experiences from the DOHR pilot project which launched in late October. It shares quotes from students about what they learned and how they feel about learning the history of the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children, including the harms of institutional racism for the Home’s former residents over its 80s years.   

DOHR’s multidisciplinary, Waterloo-based VR design team worked with former residents of the home, Tony Smith, Gerry Morrison and Tracy Dorrington-Skinner, as well as with community partners and other academics across Canada to ensure that the VR experience and accompanying 2-week history curriculum unit worked towards restorative justice for the former residents. Victims of Institutional Child Exploitation Society, the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children Restorative Inquiry, educators, historians, and legal experts worked collaboratively throughout the development of DOHR.

The digitally rendered representation of the home allowed pilot participants to hear stories in the voices of former residents Smith, Morrison, and Dorrington-Skinner, while standing in renderings of the spaces where the stories occurred. Through this process, students were immersed in learning, and pilot participants reported that this helped them gain a stronger understanding of the history. Dr. Llewellyn told the Canadian Press that she and the multidisciplinary team plan to incorporate student and teacher feedback into the final product for broader use in schools.

DOHR Community Partners:


NSHCC Restorative Inquiry

NS Department of Education (African Canadian Services Division)

Chignecto-Central Regional Centre for Education

Halifax District Regional Centre for Education

DOHR UW Faculty:

Kristina Llewellyn (Social Development Studies)

Jennifer Roberts-Smith (Communication Arts)

Paul Cegys (Communication Arts)

William Chesney (Communication Arts)

Lennart Nacke (Communication Arts)

Robert Plowman (Communication Arts)

Gerald Voorhees (Communication Arts)

DOHR Faculty (from partner Universities):

Jennifer Llewellyn (Dalhousie)

Lindsay Gibson (UBC)

Carla Peck (University of Alberta)

Bronwen Low (McGill)

Colin Labadie (Wilfred Laurier University)

Nicholas Ng-A-Fook (University of Ottawa)

Alan Sears (University of New Brunswick)

Undergraduate and Graduate Students:

Kai Butterfield (Peace and Conflict Studies)

Mahir Hoque (Fine Arts) 

Jessica Bertrand (Communication Arts)

Joanna Cleary (Communication Arts)

Arda Kizilcay (Communication Arts)

Samantha Mercury (Communication Arts)

May Nemat-Allah (Communication Arts)

Shawn DeSouza-Coelho (Communication Arts)

Maria Aufheimer (Computer Science)

Cassidy Hilts (Computer Science)

Gerd Schmidt (Computer Science)

Rina Wehbe (Computer Science)

Joseph Tu (Systems Design Engineering)

Undergraduate and Graduate Students (from partner Universities):

James Miles (OISE, University of Toronto)

Kate Charette (University of New Brunswick)

James Rowinski (University of New Brunswick)

For a full list of DOHR members and partners or for more about the DOHR project see their website.

For more about the DOHR project on CBC click here.