GRPM receives national grant for prototype of digital experience around Grand River

Courtesy Grand Rapids Public Museum

The Grand Rapids Public Museum was awarded a $100,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for the prototyping of a web-based, mobile game that explores the history of the Grand River.

The National Endowment for the Humanities’ (NEH) Digital Projects for the Public grants support projects such as websites, mobile applications, games and virtual environments that significantly contribute to the public’s engagement with humanities ideas.

“The museum is honored to have been awarded this grant to continue using technology to make history, science and culture more accessible for the community,” said Alex Forist, GRPM’s chief curator. “Our team has been working diligently to adapt to an increase in demand for digital cultural resources by families, students, educators, historians and more, and this grant allows us to test out experiences, to learn what resonates best with the public, to encourage further curiosity about the history of the Grand River.”

In the spring, the museum will begin to create a prototype for a web-based mobile game called “River of Time.” The mobile game will be designed to encourage individuals to explore the Grand River Watershed and interact with humanities content at multiple interaction points around the region.

The prototype will allow the GRPM to deliver curated information, digital collections and engaging, interactive experiences at historically and culturally locations within the community. The game prototype will run in a web browser, which will allow anyone to access it for free using a device with internet access, and will focus on activation points along the 40-mile lower Grand River corridor.

In addition to internal expertise to develop area humanities themes, the Grand Rapids Public Museum will be partnering with tribal Chairman Ron Yob, Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians; Dr. J. Marty Holtgren, native content, river restoration and ecology; Dr. Janet Brashler, former professor and Curator of Anthropology for Grand Valley State University; George A. Bayard III, executive director of the Grand Rapids African American Museum and Archives; George Heartwell, former mayor of the city of Grand Rapids; and Matt Schultz, curation and digital preservation specialist. The Grand Valley Metropolitan Council and Ottawa County Parks will assist with the implementation of the prototype.

“The outcome will be to create a digital platform for museum and humanities content that is accessible to all,” said Dr. Stephanie Ogren, VP of science and education for the GRPM. “Working with a group of distinguished leaders in their fields, as well as our design partner that pushes the boundaries of accessibility using technology, we are confident that the museum will be creating new digital experiences that the public will enjoy.”

“As we conclude an extremely difficult year for our nation and its cultural institutions, it is heartening to see so many excellent projects being undertaken by humanities scholars, researchers, curators and educators,” said Jon Parrish Peede, NEH chairman. “These new NEH grants will foster intellectual inquiry, promote broad engagement with history, literature and other humanities fields, and expand access to cultural collections and resources for all Americans.”

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