Some Albemarle County students are working to make sure people can learn first-hand about the experiences of enslaved people at President Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.
“Our mission at Monticello is preservation and education, and we also have a vision to engage a global and national audience in a dialogue with Jefferson’s ideas,” said Melanie Bowyer, digital learning manager.
Bowyer is working with students from Burley Middle School and their teachers to create a virtual reality tour of Mulberry Row, the main street at Monticello where the enslaved people lived and worked. It’s one of the only areas of the plantation that doesn’t have a way to remotely explore.
“So they’ll be acting as historians today. They’ll take the photographs, the 360 photographs, and then put it together with the narration, some questions, and some points of interest,” Burley Middle School Librarian IdaMae Craddock said.
“We’re taking pictures with this 360 camera, where if you have a VR headset you can look around in all directions and feel like immersed in the situation. So it really feels like you’re there, and you can learn a lot more about the surroundings and everything,” said student Will Tillman.
“Each room has certain focal points, so we are going to look over those points and write a short blurb about them so the teacher will be able to teach the students like a virtual tour,” writer Phoebe Rebhorn said.
The hope is that this virtual reality project will help teach people who don’t have a slice of history in their backyards.
“This is a great way we can reach students and teachers, people that aren’t able to come to Monticello so they can see and learn about Monticello,” Bowyer said.
The group is hoping to have their virtual reality guided tour up and running by the end of this calendar year.