Professors Tucker, Hicks, and Ogle, began collaborating on collecting and preserving aspects of Blacksburg architectural and cultural history in 2011 with David Cline from the History Department working informally with them beginning in 2013. The potential of their model was demonstrated in their “New Town Remembered” project. Not only does this model yield a cutting-edge recreation of a community; it also provides a platform to develop broader and more significant messages.
This project was the second one to use augmented reality and the teams’ first effort to restore disappeared structures to their historic sites. The augmented reality was coupled with a virtual reality experience that led students on an exploration of the site while learning about the lives and customs of members of the community.
In the “New Town Remembered” project, the vanished African-American community was recreated with considerable verisimilitude as confirmed by individuals who lived in New Town before its demolition. However, the broader messages incorporated in the recreation demonstrated the role that New Town served for its residents: the need for resilience in a segregated community, and the dignity and pride of the residents as they lived under legal and social conditions that were unfair and immoral. These messages were developed into a school curriculum; the technologies serving as a powerful enticement for 5th Grade children to explore both the physical and emotional aspects of segregated communities.