Introduction
The seed for the Souterraine Impressions Project was planted back in 2009 when CANADIGM founder Zenon Andrusyszyn saw a television program about the tunnels and underground caves in France, near Vimy Ridge. The show featured carvings and drawings done by the soldiers concealed in the caves during the First World War. A visual artist with a longstanding interest in the World Wars, Zenon envisioned a project that would preserve those carvings by documenting, scanning and duplicating them – and then bringing them into the public realm through a cross-Canada exhibit.
Convinced of the importance of preserving this key part of Canadian history, he wanted to offer the general public an opportunity to see the creative and very personal work left behind by Canadian soldiers as they awaited orders to join the famous Battle for Vimy Ridge. The battle was not only a great military success but became for Canada a symbol of national unity, achievement and tremendous sacrifice.

Background
In 2001, M. Dominique Faivre, a member of the Association de Recherches Historiques et Archéologiques Militaires (ARHAM), discovered the entrance to the caves used in the First World War by Canadian troops.
Five years later, in 2006, Judy Ruzylo, a researcher employed by a film company, again pinpointed the exact location of the souterraine and gained access to the site by negotiating a filming agreement with the landowner. At that point, the Durand Group, a voluntary association of specialists dedicated to the investigation and recording of military subterranean features, was called in to assess the site and determine the quality of the images. Most of the Durand Group’s work has entailed accessing Great War tunnels, dugouts, and souterraines in northern France and documenting those findings. The Durand Group spent many hours and days cleaning out garbage from the cave deposited there over the years by the landowner. Today, the Durand Group maintains and manages the site, as well as acts on behalf of the landowner. Accessibility to the site is strictly controlled.
In 2007, the Ambler family, from Canada, visited the souterraine site and subsequently had moulds made of their grandfather’s carvings.  Pte. A.J. Ambler had been a stonemason in Saskatchewan before he was called to war. The family subsequently donated the replicas of his carvings to the Military Museums of Calgary in Alberta, Canada.

How it all started

In 2010, CANADIGM founder Zenon Andrusyszyn made contact with the Durand Group and subsequently travelled to the cave site near Vimy, France.  There, he saw for himself the images and carvings in the underground cave and realized that soldiers from all across Canada were billited there.

The Canadigm Group

In May 2011 Zenon founded CANADIGM and enlisted the expertise and commitment of like-minded people. They launched the Souterraine Impressions Project, and made their first trip to the caves in June 2011 to begin the documentation process. The group went equipped with an adjustable vertical camera boom specifically designed for the task at hand. Affectionately nicknamed ‘Le Gizmo,’ it allowed the group to map out the various locations of the images within the caves.  Historical files were subsequently searched so that soldiers’ names could be linked with their service records. The linking process is ongoing, and those that have been completed are in the LINKED NAMES section of the website.

During a third trip in June 2012, the carvings on the souterraine walls were scanned by one CANADIGM team using a 3D laser scanner capable of capturing a high level of surface detail. This method facilitates duplicating the carvings without actually touching them, which could destroy nearly a century’s worth of patina. The finished 3D scanner digital files will be converted into actual-size duplicates using a 3D printer, capturing every nuance of the originals. At the same time another team took ultra-high resolution photographs of the carvings for educational and archival purposes.

Present

As of April 2015 the reproduced carvings have begun their tour as part of the Souterrain Impressions exhibition. As the 2017 centenary of the Battle for Vimy Ridge approaches, CANADIGM is bringing these carvings – which in many cases were the final testimonials of our Canadian soldiers – up from the darkness and into the light.

 

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