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New Philadelphia: using augmented reality to interpret slavery and reconstruction era historical sites

Journal article
Authors J. Amakawa
Jonathan Westin
Published in International Journal of Heritage Studies
Volume 24
Issue 3
Pages 315-331
ISSN 1352-7258
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Conservation
Pages 315-331
Language en
Keywords Augmented reality, historical interpretation, African American history, slavery, mobile, cultural-heritage, media, race
Subject categories History


Does a historical site lose its significance or become less worthy of interpretation if there are no surviving buildings? Can technology help present the stories of disadvantaged and disenfranchised groups whose heritage lacks well-preserved architecture or material culture? The emerging technology of augmented reality (AR) offers new ways of designing and shaping the public's experience when visiting landmarks by enabling an unprecedented means to combine 3D historical visualization with historical landmarks. This especially applies to underrepresented groups whose heritages have not been well served by traditional modes of preservation and interpretation due to a variety of factors. These range from disadvantages relating to material culture to a greater emphasis on intangible heritage which have placed them outside the bounds of what archaeologist Laurajane Smith calls authorised heritage discourse. A project at the New Philadelphia National Historic Landmark, located in Pike County Illinois, seeks to address these issues through AR. The technology, while offering opportunities for historical interpretation, poses challenges in terms of designing AR systems that coordinate content presentation with specific locations as well as developing virtual historical content with varying levels of source materials.

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