May 25, 2022

North Carolina: New Virtual Reality Project Revives Razed Black Neighborhoods in Charlotte

From Government Technology:

A new project led by Johnson C. Smith University (JCSU) historians will allow Charlotte, N.C., residents to experience a digital replication of razed Black neighborhoods.

Other cities have offered versions of augmented reality tours, but JCSU’s approach will involve a VR component.

JCSU partnered with Duke University early on and later connected with the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC) and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) to bring together technical expertise to achieve the vision. Led by JCSU Electronic Resources Librarian Tekla Ali Johnson and JCSU Archivist and Digital Manager Brandon Lunsford, the project will create a digital replication of Charlotte neighborhoods that were razed in urban renewal efforts in the ’60s and ’70s.


Project funding came primarily from three sources. The National Park Service supplied funds for digitizing the maps. The Knight Foundation offered money for the community involvement piece. The National Archives invested in technological resources and other research needs.


Duke University and its digital humanities lab has played a huge role in creating the technology, using tools like GIS mapping. As Lunsford described, the tools one can use to digitize historical maps have become more user-friendly, making digital storytelling more conceivable. The project looks to examples from Europe, like Rome Reborn®, but it is the first of its kind in the United States.

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About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.