MTSU students will combine old-fashioned information gathering and new technology to bring an historical site closer to the public.
The Digital History Program’s “Maymester Experience” will team Dr. Molly Taylor-Poleskey’s digital history class with Department of Media Arts’ professor Richard Lewis’ motion graphics class to create “Hidden Town in 3D.”
Taylor-Poleskey’s students are now in the Moravian village of Old Salem in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where they’ll create three-dimensional models of the historic townscape.
Eight public history doctoral students will stay through May 31 to gather data about African-American dwellings that existed in the 19th and early 20th centuries within a village of European Moravians from Germany.
The Moravians, who migrated from a part of what was 19th-century Germany that is now in the Czech Republic, adhered to Protestant principles espoused by Jan Hus, a theologian who was executed in 1415 for having religious views similar to those Martin Luther espoused some 50 years later.
Seeking religious freedom, some Moravians fled to England, Pennsylvania and North Carolina. Taylor-Poleskey said Moravians were unique among other radical Protestant sects because African-Americans lived among them. There was even some intermarriage.
“Early on, a small number of African-Americans were part of the Moravian community in all levels, including religious,” said Taylor-Poleskey, who teaches in MTSU’s Department of History. “They worshipped side by side with the white Moravians.”
The Moravians, however, were highly mission-oriented religious people who also justified slavery as a means to advancing their missionary goals. By the 1840s, the immigrants had become more Southern and less adherent to the rules of their faith. Racial differences gradually became more important than the common faith with their neighbors.
Archaeological excavations in the last two decades have uncovered evidence of many African-American lives in Salem. With the information Taylor-Poleskey’s students obtain on-site, they will create a virtual exhibit accessible on the web and a packet for Lewis.
His students will spend the summer creating a digital rendering of a former African-American dwelling that will be inserted into a virtual reality experience showing the buildings where they once were on the landscape and information about them.
The professors said they hope to have the entire project online by the end of summer.
“We’re doing something groundbreaking,” Taylor-Poleskey said. “We are creating the process. It’s not just playing with some fun toys and doing a digital project. We’re pushing the bounds of museum interpretation.”3323
For more information, contact Taylor-Poleskey at firstname.lastname@example.org or Lewis at email@example.com.
— Gina K. Logue (firstname.lastname@example.org)