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Archives & Museum Informatics



Four Directions

Marty Kreipe de Montano, National Museum of the American Indian, USA

Session: Demo Session 2

In the spring of 1999 the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) hosted two groups of elementary school students from Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) schools. The youngsters were the leading edge in a pilot project designed to assist students at BIA schools to use the latest computer, communications, and digital imaging technologies as tools to enhance learning about Native American cultures and histories. The students came to the museum to create a virtual tour of the NMAI's permanent exhibits, which is available now via the NMAI's World Wide Web site.

The students took panoramic photographs in the permanent exhibition galleries. The photographs, which cover 360, were then stitched together into a QuickTime movie, which can be accessed over the Web, giving viewers an immersive panoramic view of the galleries that they can manipulate. When these images are accessed over the Web, they have hot" spots which, when clicked, brings up the virtual reality image movies of individual artifacts in the exhibitions.

For the virtual reality image movies, the students took a series of digital video shots of 25 artifacts from the permanent exhibitions. These images were then rendered into QuickTime Virtual Reality (QTVR) movies, which when accessed over the Web, allows allows anyone anywhere in the world to rotate the artifact and look at it close up, as if it were being held.

In between taking photos of the galleries and of the artifacts, the students researched the artifacts in the Resource Center. They wrote labels which accompany the images on the Web. The result is a tour of the galleries from the perspective of students from Bureau of Indian Affairs schools.

Not so long ago, Native American children were forcibly sent to government run boarding schools to force them to give up their cultures. Everything traditional to Native American cultures, including language, dress, religious beliefs and artistic expression were strictly forbidden. Today Native Americans have more control over the education of their children and they wish to pass on their unique cultural traditions to the next generation. Native Americans also want their children to be part of the information revolution. Although around 50% of Native American households on Indian land do not have telephone service, Tribal governments are increasingly seeing that heir schools, libraries and community centers have Web access and that their children are not left out of digital information and communication developments.

This partnership with the Four Directions Project and the Smithsonian's Indian museum re-affirms the importance of grounding students in their own history and culture and gives the students valuable training in information technology. It also makes the museum's exhibitions available to a global audience.