Travel back in time with the Maine Historical Society’s new digital tour

The MHS invites you to learn about Maine’s complex history with racism in a novel digital exhibition

Racial discrimination and persecution form a large part of America’s past. Portland’s Maine Historical Society recognizes the importance of acknowledging this history to allow Americans to heal and move forward. The Society has established museum galleries with exhibitions that visitors can explore to learn more about Maine’s experiences of racism.

The Society recently partnered with Matterport to create a virtual tour that broadens and enhances this education. We spoke to curator Tilley Laskey to find out more about capturing its exhibition, “Begin Again: Reckoning with intolerance in Maine,” in 3D.

What inspired the 3D capture of this space?

While our online exhibitions are excellent tools, they don’t provide the same experiences as onsite exhibitions. Especially during the early pandemic, we wanted to offer our visitors a safe way to learn and the same feeling of being in our galleries. “Begin Again” was our first foray into this technology. 

What are the “must-sees” you want visitors to explore and why?

The tour shows some of the Society’s most important collections items reinterpreted in ways that uncover how systems of government justified misogyny, slavery, genocide, and stealing Native land; and why it’s relevant today. Some items include an original 1776 Dunlap Declaration of Independence and plantation neck shackle that was brought home by Maine regiment Civil War soldiers who removed it from an escaped Black slave’s corpse. Three particularly powerful items include:

Begin Again: reckoning with intolerance in Maine

What’s the one thing you want visitors to take away after exploring your 3D tour?

My co-curators and I designed the tour with empathy in mind. The exhibition’s items are divided by a red curtain that represents the blood we share as humans and the blood that has been shed over the past 528 years. It also represents the divide between the histories of those with power and privilege and those without. Our prior 2D exhibitions didn’t demonstrate this nuance but the 3D capture allows visitors to understand intolerance through the curtain’s symbolism. I hope that along with a better understanding of history, visitors will come away with the determination to build a more just and equitable future for everyone. 


What are the benefits of Matterport digital twins?

Once an exhibition is dismantled, its ephemeral experience is gone. Digital twins provide a permanent and interactive way for visitors to see the tour for the first time and remember the exhibition.


Do you have any plans to capture more 3D experiences?

We already used the 3D technology with another exhibition, “Northern Threads: Two Centuries of Dress.” We plan to image all of our upcoming large exhibitions in this way and add 2D exhibition walkthroughs online. 

Anything else you would like to add?

This technology is an excellent, easy, and economical way for museums and historic houses to show our offerings without worrying about lighting and equipment that could damage our collections. Your virtual tours are a perfect fit for the cultural sector.

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