Ball State students, faculty create digital media exhibits for National Road Heritage Site

Topics: Immersive Learning, College of Communication Information and Media, Emerging Media

September 8, 2011

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One of the three exhibits at the National Road Heritage Site created by Nancy Carlson and students and staff at Ball State. The video screen inside the covered wagon brings to life the words from actual diaries kept on journeys along the National Road.
As part of an immersive learning experience, a team of Ball State University students, faculty and staff has created three digital media exhibits featured in the new National Road Heritage Site. After two years of research and production, the exhibits will be on display at Huddleston Farmhouse in Cambridge City, Ind. The grand opening is scheduled for Sept. 10, with free admission from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
 
Nancy Carlson, associate professor of telecommunications, spearheaded the project after receiving a National Scenic Byways Grant of about $144,000 from the Federal Highway Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
 
"The students had a seat at the table with architects, historians, museum staff and other experts to decide what to build," Carlson said. "They saw their concepts come to life. You can't be much more immersive than building museum exhibits that will last for decades."
 
Students and faculty participating in the creation of the exhibits included members of the digital storytelling graduate program and staff from Emerging Technologies, with the help of Split Rock Studios in Minneapolis. The exhibits are a life-sized covered wagon with video of pioneer diary entries, an interactive map of 60 historical sites along the National Road and a 1955 model car with video footage of American car culture between 1926 and 1956.
 
"There is a common misperception that technology these days exists only inside devices you can hold in your hand," said Brandon Smith, assistant director of creative projects in Emerging Technologies. "For the National Road exhibits, we're using technology to provide a much more interactive experience for visitors."
 
"The three exhibits are some of the most interesting and exciting projects I have worked on," said Jeff Hendrix, a telecommunications graduate student. "This project gave me a professional outlet in which to use the skills and techniques I learned in my undergrad."
 
This is the second project Ball State has undertaken involving the National Road. In 2007, Carlson mentored a team of students in an immersive learning experience that produced a documentary about the Indiana segment of the road."Movers and Stakers: Stories along the Indiana National Road" focuses on stories about people who have lived near the Indiana road segment, which is located near Ind. 40 and stretches 156 miles from Richmond to Terre Haute.

By Kait Buck

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