USA TODAY US Edition

3-D Google ex­hibit to tell his­tory of black Amer­ica

- Jes­sica Guynn @jguynn USA TO­DAY

On display next year at the Smith­so­nian: an in­ter­ac­tive 3-D ex­hibit that uses Google tech­nol­ogy to tell the story of black Amer­ica.

Tech­nol­ogy is chang­ing the way peo­ple en­gage with mu­seum ex­hibits. Apps al­low vis­i­tors to seek more in­for­ma­tion on their mo­bile de­vices about the art­work they are view­ing. Aug­mented re­al­ity trans­ports mu­seum vis­i­tors back in time by adding skin and flesh to di­nosaur bones.

And start­ing next spring, the Smith­so­nian’s Na­tional Mu­seum of African Amer­i­can His­tory and Cul­ture will en­tice vis­i­tors with dig­i­tal-age tech­niques that al­low peo­ple to view in­di­vid­ual pieces from the mu­seum’s col­lec­tion from dif­fer­ent an­gles and learn more about their ori­gins, say an ad­ver­tise­ment for a Mem­phis slave mar­ket, even the cof­fin of Em­mett Till that will be housed at the mu­seum.

The ex­hibit at the new­est Smith­so­nian mu­seum, which opens on the Na­tional Mall this month, grew out of mu­seum direc­tor Lon­nie Bunch’s visit to Google’s Sil­i­con Val­ley cam­pus a few years ago. Bunch asked to meet with lead­ers of the Black Googler Net­work, a group of African-Amer­i­can em­ploy­ees at the In­ter­net gi­ant. Bunch shared his vi­sion for a tech­no­log­i­cally ad­vanced mu­seum that cap­tured the his­tory of the United States through the prism of the black ex­pe­ri­ence.

“From the jump, Dr. Bunch made it a point to en­gage the Black Googler Net­work to see how we could use in­no­va­tion to make some­thing new and dif­fer­ent that the world hasn’t seen,” Travis McPhail, one of the lead engi­neers on Google Maps, told USA TO­DAY. “I think it’s cru­cial for the Black Googler Net­work to be in­volved be­cause the sto­ries be­ing told are their sto­ries.”

McPhail led the ef­fort, called Pro­ject Griot af­ter the West Afri- can word for sto­ry­tellers and his­to­ri­ans, pulling to­gether a team of eight from across the com­pany. Engi­neers and de­sign­ers took time away from their day jobs to build tech­nol­ogy that solved a key chal­lenge faced by mu­seum cu­ra­tors: Con­ser­va­tion and space con­cerns of­ten lead them to display a frac­tion of their col­lec­tions.

Start­ing in the spring, a wall of touch­screens will al­low mu­seum vis­i­tors to in­ter­act with his­tor­i­cal ar­ti­facts shown in 3-D. Mu­seum vis­i­tors can ro­tate the ob­jects and view them from dif­fer­ent an­gles. The ob­jects fre­quently will fea­ture me­dia: video con­tent, images and text that of­fer his­tor­i­cal in­sights and con­text. Cu­ra­tors will be able to show col­lec­tions not on display in gal­leries and tai­lor ex­hibits to in­clude new col­lec­tions.

The ded­i­ca­tion of com­pany re­sources is part of a broader ef­fort afoot at Google to sup­port racial and so­cial jus­tice is­sues.

In ad­di­tion to the in­ter­ac­tive ex­hibit, Google’s phil­an­thropic arm Google.org made a $1 mil­lion grant to the mu­seum. And Google Ex­pe­di­tions will add two new des­ti­na­tions that nav­i­gate key mo­ments in African-Amer­i­can his­tory: the his­toric 54-mile route be­tween Mont­gomery and Selma and a dig­i­tal tour of Martin Luther King Jr.’s child­hood home and the Ebenezer Bap­tist Church, where he preached.

“We wanted to im­merse in­di­vid­u­als in a story.” Travis McPhail, one of the lead engi­neers on Google Maps, on the new ex­hibit

 ?? PAUL HOLSTON, AP ?? Direc­tor Lon­nie Bunch, in front of an en­graved wall at the Na­tional Mu­seum of African Amer­i­can His­tory and Cul­ture in Washington.
PAUL HOLSTON, AP Direc­tor Lon­nie Bunch, in front of an en­graved wall at the Na­tional Mu­seum of African Amer­i­can His­tory and Cul­ture in Washington.

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