Monday, May 21, 2018

[447] MTSU students to make North Carolina historic site three-dimensional

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. —MTSU students will combine old-fashioned shoe leather and newfangled technology to bring an historical site closer to the public.

The Digital History Program’s “Maymester Experience” will partner Molly Taylor-Poleskey’s digital history class with animator Richard Lewis’ motion graphics class to create “Hidden Town in 3D.” 

Taylor-Poleskey’s students are in the Moravian village of Old Salem in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where they will create three-dimensional models of the historic townscape.

Having departed May 13, eight public history doctoral students will stay through May 31 to gather data about African-American dwellings that existed in the 19thand early 20thcenturies within a village of European Moravians from Germany.

The Moravians, who migrated from a part of what was 19thcentury Germany that is now in the Czech Republic, adhered to Protestant principles espoused by Jan Hus, a theologian who was executed in 1415 for having religious views similar to those espoused by Martin Luther some 50 years later. 

Seeking religious freedom, some Moravians fled to England, Pennsylvania and North Carolina. Taylor-Poleskey said Moravians were particular among other radical Protestant sects because African-Americans lived among them and there was even some intermarriage.

“Early on, a small number of African-Americans were part of the Moravian community in all levels, including religious,” Taylor-Poleskey said. “They worshipped side by side with the white Moravians.”

However, the Moravians were highly mission-oriented religious people who justified slavery as a means to advancing their missionary goals. By the 1840s, they had become more Southern and less adherent to the rules of their faith. Gradually, racial differences became more important.

Archaeological excavations in the last two decades have uncovered tangible evidence of many traces of African-American lives in Salem. With the information Taylor-Poleskey’s students obtain on-site, they will create a virtual exhibit to be accessed on the web and a packet to be handed over to Lewis. 

His students will spend the summer creating a digital rendering of a former African-American dwelling to be inserted into a virtual reality experience that will show the buildings where they once were on the landscape and information about them. The professors hope to have the entire project online by the end of summer.

“We’re doing something groundbreaking,” Taylor-Poleskey said. “We are creating the process. It’s not just playing with some fun toys and doing a digital project. We’re pushing the bounds of museum interpretation.”

For more information, contact Taylor-Poleskey at molly.taylor-poleskey@mtsu.eduor Lewis at


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