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Augmented Curiosities: Virtual Play in African Pasts and Futures

A virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) experience in the Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) for Museums: Literature

Immersive visualization technologies such virtual reality and augmented reality provide opportunities of engagement with material culture that do not compromise the preservation and sensitivity of fragile collections. These technologies provide new solutions  for curators - who want to provide intimate experiences for viewers while safeguarding fragile objects, and for audiences - who desire engaging and hands-on interactions with tangible heritage.

Cabinets of Curiosities | Wunderkammer: Literature

Cabinets of Curiosity, or Wunderkammer, were popularized during the 16th century in Europe and were common among prominent socialites. The first cabinet of curiosity is credited to the late Italian Renaissance period.  These amateur "exhibitions" were created to highlight the global mobility and refined tastes or interests of the collecting owner. Cabinets of curiosity are understood as the basis of Western museums as many prestigious institutions were founded through the desire of wealthy aristocrats to make their extensive collections public.

Black Stars Makarapa: Literature

A makarapa is a hand-cut and hand-painted hard hat worn by sports fans. Originally used as protection from projectiles thrown during matches, the articles have become prevalent representations of South African sports culture. The word makarapa means "scrapers", referring to rural workers who commute to cities and "scrape" a livelihood in mining and construction industries. The laborers returned home wearing the hard hats - which were eventually referred to as makarapas.

Idubor Bust: Literature

Felix Idubor (1928 - 1991) is one of the most renowned contemporary sculptors of Nigeria. At the age of 23, Idubor moved to Lagos where he began selling wood carvings to traders. Soon after, he moved to England to study at Royal College of Art London. Idubor is credited with establishing the first official art gallery in Nigeria (the Idubor Gallery of Arts) and the innovation of a new method of casting bronze sculptures and rough textured carvings. He was actively involved in the organization of the second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC) which was held in Lagos in 1977. Idubor's work, especially his carved doors, achieved international fame and collection.

Yoruba Stauette: Literature

In Yoruba art, a kneeling female figure with two children is referred to as Iyabeji or Abiyamo. The kneeling position is a gesture of respect, devotion, and submission. The colors presented in beads and other adornments relate the objects to particular deities. Facial marks, known as abaja, and hairstyle forms allow observers to associate the sculptures with a specific Yoruba subgroup.

Nuna Smoking Pipe: Literature

The Nuna/Nunuma are present in the Northern Province of Ghana and Burkina Faso. They speak a Niger-Congo language that is associated with the Gurunsi cultural and linguistic group. The Nuna are internationally renowned for their striking woodworking. In recent years, the craftsmanship and markets for Nuna products has undergone significant regression due to the influx of manufactured Western imports.

Liberian Election Fan: Literature

William V.S. Tubman was the 19th and longest-serving president of the Republic of Liberia. He was a member of True Whig Party (TWP), which maintained exclusive control of Liberian politics from 1878 to 1980. During his tenure, Tubman oversaw the “Golden Age” of Liberian prosperity, marked by increased foreign investment, infrastructural development, and national unification. As the "father of modern Liberia", President Tubman sought to align the interests of Indigenous Liberians with those of the Americo-Liberian elite.

South African Fertility Doll: Literature

The craft tradition of beaded cloth doll making is predominantly practiced by rural women in the KwaZulu-Natal region of South Africa. Zulu beadwork patterns have been analyzed as a visual language, consisting of encoded meaning and complex syntax. Present day practitioners have used the art as a “social document” to draw attention to societal inequalities and injustices such as those endured during the HIV/AIDS crisis.