🍂🍬🍸 Join CIRT at our Connections and Confections Open House 🍸🍬🍂

UNF Center for Instruction and Research Technology

Cirt Knowledge Base

The Intersection of Past and Present with OER, the UNF Archives, and Virtual Reality

CIRT ID Team
Virtual Learning Center
Dr. Kevin Pfeil, Assistant Professor School of Computing in the College of Computer, Engineering, and Instruction (left), Susan Swiatosz, University Librarian, Head of Special Collections (center), and Beryl White-Bing, Virtual Learning Librarian (right)

This faculty spotlight highlights an OER trailblazer who constantly thinks outside of the box, Beryl White-Bing, Virtual Learning Librarian at the Thomas G. Carpenter Library. I had the privilege to interview Beryl White-Bing regarding her collaborative, innovative, cross-departmental project representative of a labor of love – The Eartha M. M. White Virtual Reality Experience. The idea for Beryl’s Eartha M. M. White Virtual Reality Learning Experience evolved out of a question poised to her at her own interview for the VLC Librarian position. Susan Swiatosz, Head of Special Collections and University Archives asked Beryl how VR could help the Special Collections at UNF. Beryl gave a good enough response to get the job, but Beryl admits that the question stayed with her. Soon after starting her new position, Beryl wanted to highlight a gem of a collection in the archives–that of the African American Jacksonville philanthropist Eartha M. M. White. When asked about the process, Beryl makes it sound simple: “You have an idea. You get a team together. You collaborate. Everybody performs their duties. And then you put it together and it will be there forever.”

You have an idea. You get a team together. You collaborate. Everybody performs their duties. And then you put it together and it will be there forever.

Once Beryl came up with the idea to highlight Eartha’s collection, she wrote and won an Innovative Project award with the Northeast Florida Library Information Network (NEFLIN) enabling her to obtain Meta Quest 2’s and scanners for the project. Beryl met with Susan Swiatosz and Jennifer Bibb, Coordinator of Special Collections. Collectively, they determined that they wanted to create a VR experience for Eartha M. M. White that emulates VR experiences about the Anne Frank House VR, People’s House: Inside the White House with Barack and Michelle Obama, and The Book of Distance, an immigration story. After Susan wrote the script and Special Collections pulled the University Archives scans, Beryl recruited Dr. Kevin Pfeil, Assistant Professor School of Computing in the College of Computer, Engineering, and Instruction to help them make their vision a reality. Dr. Pfeil, Beryl, and two UNF students visited the Eartha M. M. White Museum in Jacksonville to scan each room of what Eartha M. M. White’s home was formerly. Dr. Pfiel combined the narration with the images of the museum to the digital images from the scanning project and used Unity (game development software) as the platform for the experience.  

The first part of the experience starts in the UNF Special Collections reading room and then transports the viewer to the three rooms of Eartha’s home- her office, bedroom, and parlor to engage with a narrated tour and primary sources about her personal (bedroom visit), professional (office visit) lives as well as her accolades (parlor visit). Not only did the University Archives’ scans get added to the UNF Digital Commons (Open and freely accessible), but Beryl also provides the Eartha M. M. White freely on SideQuest for the Meta Quest 2. Anyone with a Meta Quest 2 can freely download the Eartha experience worldwide. For those without the technology, Professor Pfeil created a variation of the experience (YouTube 360) freely available on YouTube narrated by former UNF Librarian Trina McCowan.

Beryl has been invited as a speaker at the prestigious American Library Association Conference to talk about the Eartha M. M. White experience. She says, “I think cultural preservation and VR is really a thing and if you use your Special Collections as evidence of that culture…why not create an experience?” Beryl and her team created a working model that is replicable. Beryl is proud to report that she not only has uploaded the Eartha M.M. White Experience to all her Meta Quest 2 devices but also to the 15 devices located at the Digital Humanities Institute. She is excited for students and faculty to visit the VLC to engage with the experience and is equally proud of UNF Faculty who take her idea and replicate it to highlight their research. One example is the Wetlands Walk VR experience created by Dr. Kailan Sindelar. Beryl hopes that more students and faculty visit the Virtual Learning Center located on the third floor of the library to celebrate these innovative projects. Her next steps are to work with Jacksonville high schools so that high schoolers can experience Eartha M. M. White through virtual reality.

I think cultural preservation and VR is really a thing and if you use your Special Collections as evidence of that culture…why not create an experience?

Visit UNF Digital Commons to download the actual experience for free. It is also available for sideload on to the Meta Quest 2 from SideQuest VR. Also, a 360m version is available on YouTube. For more information on UNF’s Virtual Learning Center, visit UNF’s VLC Lib Guide.

Brought to You By
CIRT ID Team
Sarah Moukhliss
Sarah Moukhliss
CIRT | STEM Online Learning Librarian
css.php