NEH Grant Supports Immersive Virtual Reality Project

January 13, 2023

David Neville, digital liberal arts specialist, was awarded a grant of $46,136 from the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Digital Humanities Advancement Grant program for a project titled "The Virtual Viking Longship Project: A Study in the Future of Liberal Arts Teaching and Research."  

This grant will support the creation of an immersive virtual reality experience for visualizing a Viking longship, and understanding the social, linguistic, cultural, political, and economic roles that the longship played in the Viking Age. Equally important, it will allow Neville and his collaborators Tim Arner, associate dean of Curriculum and Academic Programs and associate professor, and Austin Mason, director of the Digital Arts and Humanities program at Carleton College, to develop and assess strategies for integrating student learning and labor in a long-term digital humanities project. 

"This grant allows us to explore the creation and configuration of new communities of inquiry and practice at Grinnell College,” says Neville. “These communities will build interdisciplinary bridges between departments, permit students and faculty to explore profound liberal arts questions through the lens of emerging immersive computing platforms, and help establish Grinnell as a leader in innovative liberal arts teaching and learning for the 21st century.” 

Vanessa Preast, associate director of the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment, will assist with assessment of the project, and Neville, Arner, and Mason will also draw on the expertise of collaborators from the Viking Museum Haithabu (Hedeby, Germany), the Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County (Moorhead, Minn.), and Vanderbilt University.  

When complete, the VR experience will serve as a visualization tool and immersive learning platform for visitors to the Viking Museum Haithabu and Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County, as well as for high school and undergraduate students and faculty interested in various aspects of medieval history and the Viking age. 

“I've heard people say that these types of projects can't be done at small liberal arts colleges like Grinnell and Carleton,” says Neville. “I disagree. Not only can we excel at them, but I think we have something to contribute for the betterment of the world. And these projects are a tangible way of doing that." 

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