“Black Past Lives Matter: Digital Kormantin,” funded with a $99,874 NEH Digital Humanities grant, will create a website with meticulously detailed virtual tours of a 1632 English fort on the coast of Ghana that was among the earliest to send enslaved Africans to the American colonies.
Sustained Black Lives Matter protests have focused national attention on persisting racial inequalities in the United States. Because this racism “has been centuries in the making, reconciliation depends upon all Americans understanding a Black history extending back four centuries temporally and across the Atlantic world spatially,” says Jarvis, a history professor who also infuses archaeology and digital media studies in his teaching and research.
Moreover, the website will be accessible to millions of people who, even without the travel barriers raised by COVID 19, would never have the means or opportunity to visit the coast of Ghana.
“Although no substitute for an actual visit, this project will make virtual visitation possible for an historic site every bit as important to American history as Jamestown or Plymouth Rock,” says Jarvis.
In “Digital Elmina,” three University of Rochester faculty members—Renato Perucchio, professor of mechanical engineering and biomedical engineering and director of the archeology, technology, and historic structures program; Michael Jarvis, associate professor of history and director of Smiths Island archeology project; and Christopher Muir, professor of mechanical engineering—created 3D reconstructions of Elmina Castle, which were then visualized through Unity Gaming Engine.
Built in 1482, Elmina is the best-preserved and most complete example of early European masonry construction in Ghana and served as an active commercial outpost over four centuries. The castle was also one of the most significant stops on the Atlantic slave trade route. Immersive technologies help us understand Elmina Castle’s past, convey this knowledge in the present, and ensure the castle’s survival in the future.
The Digital Scholarship Lab collaborated with the Lazarus Project to produce a 3D model of the New York Public Library’s Hunt-Lenox Globe, which dates from ca. 1510. Considering the size of the globe–it is only 5 inches in diameter–the 3D model not only facilitates access to the historic object but it also allows viewers to explore details of the globe otherwise hidden by its size and the bronze armillary sphere that contains it.
Expanding capacity for 3D representations of cultural heritage objects
As a means of providing access to these artifacts, the DSL is expanding upon the 3D viewer originally built for the Ward Project to add features such as VR capability and annotations. The goal is to produce a presentation platform designed for 3D representations of cultural heritage objects that allows for virtual “guided exhibits” of the objects as well as independent exploration. The expanding toolset is designed to provide domain experts with the ability to uncover surface information about an object and disseminate their findings to a wider audience.
Features of the 3D Viewer
Selections of the Hunt-Lenox Globe in the DSL’s 3D Viewer
Dynamic lighting tools to highlight areas on the object
Analyzing tools help viewers explore textures. Can you find the shipwreck?
Lighting options on the 3D viewer reveal details not readily apparent on the original.