Project Description

Begun in the Fall of 2019, the goal of this project is to recreate Fort Leboeuf in a virtual reality environment that will be able to be used by members of the Behrend and Erie community.

Fort Leboeuf was originally built in 1753 by French colonial forces to protect their northern access to the Ohio River Basin. They built here as it was an important part of the Mississippi Watershed where French soldiers and fur-traders could access waters that traveled across North America. Because Fort Leboeuf was in a geographically favorable spot, it became a focal point of European conflict as Britain sought to expand its zone of control west. This fort was also the one that George Washington paid visit to in 1753, asking the French to leave the area, soon leading to the French and Indian war from 1754-1763.

Unfortunately, during the French and Indian War, this fort was burned and rebuilt 3 times, meaning that no physical structure remains.  Therefore, reconstruction work must rely upon the few surviving written sources, including the journal of George Washington, which detail the fort’s architecture, dimensions, and use.  Information from these sources is also supplemented with research from other French colonial outposts, such as Fort Niagara and Fort Machault, which grant important insights into construction materials, interior furnishings, and other aspects not directly recorded about Fort LeBoeuf.

By integrating this information from several sources, VAR Labs, through close collaboration with the Fort Leboeuf Historical Society, has been able to assemble a virtual model of Fort LeBoeuf using 3D modeling software (AutoCAD). In addition, high definition 3D scans of surviving artifacts from the fort site are being generated and added to the fort model as well, to further increase the accuracy and dynamism of the virtual environment.  Once complete, this complete, detailed model will be rendered virtually for direct, first-person access through VR headsets.

The VAR Lab hopes to be able to share this project with the Behrend and Erie community, which will showcase how virtual reality can be used to preserve history as well as educate individuals on the history both locally and nationally.  This project will also provide opportunities for pedagogical applications of VR to be explored in classroom settings, particularly in the Humanities and Social Sciences.


UPDATE: October 04, 2020

Work on the fort is underway! The VAR Lab is currently working on rendering the fort in TwinMotion, as shown below. Check out the video flythrough of the fort at the bottom of this post!

fort leboeuf

Canoe by the stream that the soldiers would have used

fort leboeuf

Finetuning the small details such as crates and grass
fort leboeuf
A mock woodpile sitting outside the boundaries of the fort