October 25, 2010

Live Interactive Virtual Explorations (LIVE) Activities are Showcased at Department of Interior Diversity Days

By Kimberly Mann Bruch

Federal employees and members of the public experienced an array of National Parks via Live Interactive Virtual Explorations (LIVE) at the Department of Interior (DOI) Diversity Days event in Washington, DC on October 13-14. The LIVE activities allowed audiences at the DOI Main Interior Building (MIB) to experience hard-to-reach culturally-diverse sites throughout the country and interact with National Park Service rangers without leaving the city of Washington, DC.

Prior to the LIVE activities, Manzanar National Historic Site Superintendent Les Inafuku welcomed the audience to the DOI Diversity Days "Honoring America's Heritage and Culture" and explained the LIVE concept to them.

On October 13, Diversity Days activities focused on the following National Park Service and partner sites:

  • Biscayne National Park
  • Cabrillo National Monument
  • Manzanar National History Site
  • Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles
  • Yosemite National Park
  • Brown v. Board of Education

    The LIVE activities were displayed on five screens in the auditorium; one screen was a projection screen while the other four were plasma monitors.

    The Biscayne Bay National Park (located on Biscayne Bay in Miami, FL) LIVE activity included a discussion of the park's many natural resources such as its underwater shipwreck sites, coral reefs, and emerald islands. Information about Biscayne Bay National Park is found at http://www.nps.gov/bisc/.

    The Cabrillo National Monument LIVE presentation focused on Spanish exploration during the 16th century and featured rangers dressed in period clothing situated at the Monument's Old Point Loma Lighthouse. The audience was able to communicate in real-time with the presenters about the lifestyles and activities of the Spanish explorers, which are described at Cabrillo's website at http://www.nps.gov/cabr/.

    Earlier this year, this particular LIVE activity was tested between the Cabrillo National Monument and the Pala Native American Learning Center; details are found at http://hpwren.ucsd.edu/news/20100611/. Because the demonstration generated great interest from the youth, another such event took place at the recent Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) conference in San Diego; additional information is available at http://hpwren.ucsd.edu/news/20101015/.

    Following the Biscayne Bay National Park and Cabrillo National Monument activities, the LIVE activities focused on an hour-long session with Manzanar National Historic Site - including a virtual side trip to Little Tokyo. The Manzanar and Little Tokyo portions of the event encompassed discussions between National Park Service (NPS)rangers and the audience regarding the experiences of Japanese Americans during World War II.

    Following the tour of Manzanar Historic Site, LIVE participants spoke with Little Tokyo residents, who came to this California area in the 1940s as ordered by the USA government. Additional information about this site is located at http://www.nps.gov/manz/.

    The final LIVE activity on October 13 took place between the audience at the DOI MIB auditorium and Yosemite National Park. This session featured a ranger in period-dress, who portrayed one of the US Army's Buffalo soldiers. General information about Yosemite National Park is found at http://www.nps.gov/yose.

    The US Army's Buffalo soldiers were among the first park rangers; National Park Service interpretive ranger Shelton Johnson shares stories and answers questions with the LIVE audience located in Washington, DC.

    Due to technical issues, a LIVE presentation was not possible, however, Mr. John Stokes, a litigant from the Brown vs. Board equality in education suit was present at the MIB. Mr. John Stokes, a captivating speaker, was positively received by the audience. Many questions were posed to Mr. Stokes following his presentation and allowed for an interactive first-person conclusion to a successful day of events. Information regarding Brown v. Board of Education is found at http://www.nps.gov/brvb/.

    Brown v. Board of Education plaintiff Mr. John Stokes (right) is shown here with HPWREN staff Kimberly Mann Bruch (left). Mr. Stokes' presentation concluded the first day of Diversity Days events at the DOI MIB.

    On October 14, the first LIVE program took place between the DOI MIB Sidney Yates Auditorium (Washington, DC) and the Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island. This activity allowed the audience to talk with a park ranger situated at the Ellis Island entry station and also get a real-time glimpse at the Statue of Liberty as well as boats bringing visitors to the monument.

    Three cameras were set up at the National Monument site at the Ellis Island entrance - one pointed toward the Statue of Liberty, another toward boats in the landing area, and a third on the entrance building. These cameras allowed audience members to get a feel for what it is like to actually be at the site of arrival for thousands of hopeful immigrants while talking in real-time with a park ranger.

    The second LIVE activity on October 14 took place between the Yates auditorium and the Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site (North Dakota). The real-time presentations between two interpretive rangers and the audience sparked a lively question and answer session. Inquiries included "What type of trading took place between the Native Americans and the settlers in the 1800s?" and "What are the artifacts in the earth lodge used for?"

    The Knife River activity took place inside a Native American Earth Lodge and was opened with an introduction to the site by National Park Service Ranger Craig Hanson. Following Ranger Hanson's presentation, National Park Service Ranger Loren Yellow Bird sang a traditional chant accompanied by a Native instrument; a Quicktime movie of this chant is found here.

    After the Knife River earth lodge LIVE activity, the audience was taken on a final trip to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where presenters were situated overlooking a smoking volcano and welcomed to the island with a Native chant. Following this opening, rangers discussed the park with the audience. Questions following the presentations included "Can you feel earthquakes?" and "Have you ever stepped in hot lava?".

    The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park LIVE welcome chant took place as the sun rose over smoking volcanoes.

    The majority of National Park Service sites (all, but one) utilized Skype loaded on a laptop equipped with an external audio headset/microphone and video camera; one site (Knife River) used Gmal video chat loaded on a laptop equipped with a built-in microphone and web camera. Evaluations were completed by 87 participants (ages 12-69) during the two-day event and 65 percent of participants agreed that the video quality was good while 70 percent agreed that the audio was good.

    Additional evaluation results include the following:

  • 85% agree that the information was presented effectively by presenters.
  • 82% agree with the statement "I learned a lot."
  • 70% agree with the statement "I want to go visit the site in person now."
  • 68% would recommend LIVE activities to others.

    For details about LIVE, please refer to http://hpwren.ucsd.edu/LIVE.

    Photographs and video clips depicting the activities are found at http://kimbruch.com/DD.

    Main HPWREN web site (includes information for acknowledgments/disclaimers and feedback/contact)