On April 22, students from the Communication, Culture & Technology (CCT), English, and Art and Museum Studies programs invited the campus community to play, learn, and reflect as part of a site-specific installation in Old North, the oldest standing academic building on campus.
The product of a Round 5 ITEL project led by JR Osborn (CCT), Gretchen Henderson (English), Lisa Strong (Art and Museum Studies), and Evan Barba (CCT), the Pilgrimage Project aimed to rediscover and reengage space and place on campus. In the fall of 2015, students from four undergraduate and graduate courses worked together to excavate and build an archive of work around Old North, including architectural and art history research, creative writing pieces, and multimedia productions. In the following spring, two CCT courses “reimagined, remixed, and activated” the archive, drawing on it as an inspiration for the resulting physical installation at Old North. Across the six classes, a total of 68 students collaborated on the project. The fruits of these collaborative projects included an interactive timeline of Old North on a Microsoft Surface Table, an M.C. Escher-inspired virtual reality video game featuring the building’s central staircase, and a window programmed to capture and play back video of each of its viewers, amongst others. A digital repository of these exhibits and the research behind them can be found at oldnorth.georgetown.domains.
As the archive explains, the Pilgrimage Project drew its name from the interfaith tradition of reflective journeys, aiming to cultivate a spirit of contemplation at Georgetown. In doing so, students interrogated both visible and invisible aspects of Old North, a space steeped in history both good and bad, remembered and overlooked—an exercise that feels particular resonant as it happens alongside work being done by the Working Group on Slavery, Memory and Reconciliation. By putting the results of this interrogation online and bringing it to life in a public exhibition, the Pilgrimage Project event presents a strong example of students as creators, not just consumers, of knowledge. For one visitor to the installation, a student completing his first year at CCT, the augmented reality game was a particularly impressive illustration of student creativity and expertise: “I hadn’t anticipated that people in CCT would be able to pull something like this off. It tells me that maybe I can also do something this impressive. This is by people who I hang out with all the time, and they’re the people who’ve done this, not professional gamers.”
This sort of impact is exactly what the ITEL program was designed to achieve—facilitating new forms of teaching and learning through technology—and CNDLS is proud to have supported this work. Congratulations to all on the first round of the Pilgrimage Project—we can’t wait to see what’s next!