This post is part of a joint series entitled “Digital Research, Digital Age: Blogging New Approaches to Early American Studies,” published by the Panorama and the Junto. This joint series stems from stemming from a conference entitled “Revolutionary Texts in a Digital Age: Thomas Paine’s Publishing Networks, Past and Present,” organized by Nora Slonimsky at Iona College in October 2018. This series will feature one post every day this week, hosted by both the Panorama and the Junto, and Dr. Slonimsky’s introductory post is found here.
This past October I had the pleasure of presenting on a roundtable on Founding Commemoration at the Revolutionary Texts in a Digital Age Conference at the Institute for Thomas Paine Studies. I posed a question to my fellow panelists and the members of the audience to start my presentation: How can we use the digital re-creation of historic places (and thus the commemoration of these spaces) to bring new viewers into the field and bring together different historical approaches?
In the last decade, several incredible three-dimensional re-creation projects have demonstrated the possibility of this technology, including the London Before the Great Fire project, the Ancient Rome project, the James Dexter House site in Philadelphia, and a forthcoming project on eighteenth-century Barbados out of the University of Rochester. These projects preserve the physical elements of history that have very nearly been destroyed, allow visitors to experience the site from across the globe, and offer teachers, students, and teachers the opportunity to draw new conclusions about the lives that took place in this space. The physical space helps us see how the individuals may have interacted with one another and how the space may have shaped their lives and key historical developments.