I was listening to NPR on my way home from work the other day and heard a story about The Museum of Yesterday, an immersive app for exploring the history of Rio de Janeiro’s recently unearthed slave dock, Valongo Wharf. The name of the app is a spin on Rio’s new Museum of Tomorrow, a $55 million dollar tourist draw that fails to acknowledge Brazil’s history of slavery. This story interested me because digital technology enabled Rio residents to tell a history of racial injustice that the government wants to ignore. They are able to tell this important counternarrative without a $55 million dollar museum of their own, and I find that a powerful use of digital technology. It’s also an interesting example of augmented reality and gamification, drawing inspiration from Pokemon Go. From the story:
OSBORN: Black activists here stress that remembering the biggest ghost, slavery, means not just remembering suffering but resistance to it. That resistance plays a big role in The Museum of Yesterday app. Gabriele Roza, who helped research the app, is on the tour with us.
GABRIELE ROZA: (Speaking Portuguese).
OSBORN: She points out an icon for Quilombo, one of Brazil’s many runaway slave communities. The app explains it’s in the heart of a neighborhood historically known as Little Africa because of the way people dressed, cooked, worshiped and made music.
ROZA: (Speaking Portuguese).
OSBORN: “Real Samba music was born here from African drumming traditions,” Roza explained. Roza is a member of the first black student organization at one of Rio’s most prestigious universities. The group is only one year old. As we arrive at Valongo Wharf, she tells me Brazil is at the very beginning of understanding the relationship between slavery in its past and the corruption and inequality of today.*
Read (or listen to) the full story here.