The VR Colored Girls Museum

“I dream of a reality where technology senses what we see, touch and feel; a reality where technology no longer gets in our way, but instead embraces who we are.
I dream of technology on a human path.”  

                                                   Alex Kipman

The Colored Girls Museum honors the history, experiences, creativity and resilience of Colored Girls. It is the first institution of its kind to consider memoir, in any form, as well as objects of personal and historic significance, as evidence — with empirical value. It is located in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The Alliance for Media Arts + Culture has partnered with the Museum, Microsoft, and 371 Productions to conceive and build the VR Colored Girl Museum. It will be equal parts exhibition space, culture center, research facility, gathering place and think tank.

The goal of the project is to co-create an immersive museum experience in virtual reality — in the browser. Combining photogrammetry, archiving, oral history and the latest webVR technologies, we intend to create an exact replica of the museum in Germantown that will be accessible to audiences around the world. We will also build out meeting spaces for arts and culture groups, a theater for film screenings and live performance, and a museum gift shop where artists can sell their work. We will offer a schedule of tours for school groups and nonprofit organizations, sample lesson plans and maker toolkits.  The Museum will be designed and developed by diverse, intergenerational creative teams around the world.  This is next generation, culturally transformative arts engagement — for everyone.

The current technology plan for the VR Colored Girls Museum leverages ReactVR, A-Frame and other tools like Hubs by Mozilla, to enable social experiences and creative collaboration in an open-source XR environment.

We are building a hosted space where teams of diverse, intergenerational artists, creative technologists and developers from US, India, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East will be able to collaborate, and the notion of tech that “embraces who we are” reflects the authentic experience and powerful voice of the colored girl. We are creating protocols, workflows and UX design for a photo-real interactive XR-powered museum in the browser that can add new technologies as they are developed  Throughout the process, we will be writing, curating and sharing model curricula so young developers, designers and creative technologists can work through online lessons and receive mentorship throughout the arc of the project.

Related to the immersive VR Museum project in the browser, we will also be producing The Skin I Own, directed by Amanda Shelby. The Skin I Own will be a short VR film, a volumetric journey where VR technology is rendered as ethnopoetry; the beat of the music, the geography of the viewer’s body, the architecture of the virtual space, and the voices of black women guide visitors through the garden, into the museum, on to the porch, through the door and into the front room, where we, the viewers, are among the paintings and objects, seeing our reflections and entering their worlds. In the light of the collective realness of black women, in full view of scars that have healed, and the pain still carried on her shoulders, The Skin I Own also enables viewers to acknowledge their own fears of being unseen, and unheard.  The goal is a creative, communal and emotional experience — centered through the stories, and grounded by the voices, of ordinary/extraordinary black women.