A virtual reality tour of the Willamette Falls area is among the Clackamas County-based projects in contention for receiving funding through a statewide grant program supporting the conservation or development of Oregon's cultural heritage.
The Willamette Falls and Landings Heritage Area Coalition is looking to share the culturally significant lands surrounding the continent's second largest waterfall with as many people as possible through an immersive digital walkthrough of the site utilizing an augmented reality app that participants can access from anywhere in the world.
"To have something that helps you step into a place, even when you're not physically there, I think it's really cool and gives people a very different perspective on what they're learning about and why they're learning it," said Britta Mansfield, executive director for the coalition.
The coalition is seeking approximately $10,000 in funding through the Oregon Heritage Grant, offered annually by the Oregon Heritage Commission as part of its efforts "to secure, sustain and enhance Oregon's heritage by ensuring coordination of heritage initiatives by public and private organizations; advocacy on its behalf; education of the public about its extent and value; and promotion and celebration of its diversity," according to Commission Coordinator Beth Dehn.
Among the augmented reality features the coalition is developing is an immersive 3D map that can be scanned onto any surface of the participant's choosing, such as a tabletop or a floor, Mansfield said. As the participant moves throughout the map at their own pace, they will come across interactive models that they can select to learn more about.
As the coalition is not yet run out of a physical building, Mansfield said the tour will help the coalition connect people with the histories of the area in the meantime, while continuing efforts to renovate the historic City Hall in West Linn to a cultural center.
"To make something that is truly immersive and interactive and will then last the lifetime of our organization even when we do have a building, we want to make sure we're getting a really high-quality product. So that's where the grant comes in," Mansfield said.
A number of developments are slated for the next several years to transform the Willamette Falls area from its current state of near inaccessibility, blocked off by industrial buildings, to an inviting space for the community to engage further with land rich in heritage and history.
Mansfield said a primary goal of the coalition is not only to contribute to the increased access of these areas but to present its stories in full context with an emphasis on including and centralizing perspectives, especially those who have historically been marginalized.
"It's pretty common throughout history to have different narratives or different people groups, overlooked, or just downright excluded," Mansfield said. "And so we really want to work to combat some of that and make sure that in any of our interpretive materials, we're telling as many perspectives as we respectfully can."
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