Hidden in Plain Site virtual reality experience reveals Black history in Richmond

Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Imagine that you could transport yourself into an immersive experience and explore Black history in Richmond. Take a virtual tour of the city you know but see it through a new lens.

Now you can.

“This is history and an experience everyone should understand,” said Dontrese Brown, founder of BROWNBAYLOR.

In collaboration with Dean Browell, co-owner of Feedback, a research company in Shockoe Bottom, and David Waltenbaugh, founder of Root VR, a virtual reality business, the team set their sights on creating a virtual multi-stop tour of Richmond. Their goal is to highlight the story of Black people in the city.

The result – Hidden in Plain Site: Richmond, a 20-minute virtual reality experience.

Hidden in Plain Site virtual experience reveals Black history in Richmond
Screenshot from Hidden in Plain Site: Richmond virtual reality experience

Brown said in the wake of George Floyd’s death, he saw meaningful action in Richmond. He said it made him stop and think about how he could contribute, without doing the same things.

The Hidden in Plain Site: Richmond virtual experience allows users to travel through time and around the city, revealing examples of history without monuments. The journey shares the Black experience that exists around corners and, at times, under your feet.

“We worked together and we felt this was something that needed to be done,” Brown said. “We did this with collaboration – purposeful and intentional efforts to really want to make an impact here in the City of Richmond.”

The project combines archival images and modern visuals along with other media elements to create a real experience for those in the journey. The project is narrated by Brown and leads participates to 11 stops around Richmond sharing stories about Maggie L. Walker, Henry “Box” Brown, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and the Lumpkin’s Jail “Devils Half Acre.”

The project ends with a timely topic of discussion, the Robert E. Lee Monument on Monument Avenue.   

Brown shared that Hidden in Plain Site: Richmond is a passion project for him and he wants it to be accessible to everyone. He wants this project to be a family event and experience.

“They’ll be learning together and maybe that will introduce conversations and purposeful actions throughout the city,” he said.

This is only the first stop for Brown and his team. He said there are so many more lost stories that need to be told.

“The Black experience in Richmond spans across our entire country,” He said. “So, imagine how this has the potential to be in other cities, other counties, other states, other communities to bring light to similar experiences.”

Hidden in Plain Site: Richmond partnered with the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia, the Virginia Museum of History and Culture and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

The virtual reality experience is viewable through desktop, mobile or VR on their website.

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