Posted on January 4, 2023
Dr. Asha Kutty (Professor, Interior Architecture Department), Dr. Regis Kopper (Professor, Computer Science Department) and Dr. Deborah Barnes (Senior Research Associate for the International Civil Rights Center & Museum) were awarded a grant from the UNCG Community-Engaged Pathways and Partnerships (P2): A Collective Scholarship Fellows Program. Their project will focus on the development of virtual reality walkthroughs that will recreate the museum and memorial space designs of a selected group of students’ work from Dr. Kutty’s IAR 302 class. These museum and memorial spaces convey the context, and honor the story of Eugene Hairston, a Guilford County lynch victim during the Segregation era. The project is intended to be a part of Guilford County’s ongoing efforts to reclaim a copy of its lynching marker from the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, AL. This memorial was created in dedication “to the legacy of enslaved Black people, people terrorized by lynching, African Americans humiliated by racial segregation and Jim Crow, and people of color burdened with contemporary presumptions of guilt and police violence.” (source) The VR walkthroughs will be created and housed at the International Civil Rights Center & Museum in downtown Greensboro, NC, to raise social justice awareness of these deplorable past actions. Research conducted across various disciplines has demonstrated that immersive media can increase empathy, which is a necessity to social justice activism and healing. With this understanding, VR technology can be used as an effective tool not only to critique structural racism and document social injustices through the students’ designs, but to also foster the kinds of empathy, compassion, and solidarity necessary to facilitate positive social change.