Student Research Partnership in Digital Arts & the Humanities: The Viking Longship Project

10 January 2024
By Jack Ochoa-Andersen '24

This past summer, I embarked on a journey into the past, joining the Virtual Viking Longship Project, a collaborative initiative between Carleton College and Grinnell College, overseen by Austin Mason, David Neville, and Tim Arner. Among other objectives within the grant narrative, creating an immersive educational virtual reality (VR) experience that can allow users to interact with significant historical artifacts of the Viking Age was central to my work this summer. 

Unlike my colleagues, who delved deep into the world of VR development and programming, my role focused on a different, yet equally crucial aspect of the project. I was tasked with the responsibility of researching and crafting methodologically sound annotations for various components of the ship model, a process that required me to dive deep into historical records and consult large bodies of literature within the field. With little prior exposure to the historiography of the Viking world at the time, my first few weeks of the summer were largely spent acclimating myself to said history. After this introductory period, I began creating and editing the annotations; in the final iteration of the project, users will interact with these annotations as they navigate the experience, with the intention of creating an informative exhibit that users can engage with as they interact with the digital artifacts and minigame. 

My work was a testament to the importance of balancing the intricacies of historical research with the concerns associated with the innovative technology that is virtual reality. It underpins the need for an interdisciplinary approach in creating educational content that is both engaging, and informative, without pigeonholing users into a unilateral view of the material and its associated history. 

This summer internship was more than a deep dive into the Viking Age; it was a valuable lesson in the power of storytelling through technology, demonstrating how virtual reality can transcend traditional boundaries of engagement and comprehension. As I move forward in my academic and professional career, I will take with me a profound appreciation for the manners in which technology can bring history to life, through mediums already available and those yet to be invented, and make it accessible to all. In a world where technology and history intertwined more closely each day, I am eager to continue being part of the next wave of innovation in historical scholarship and education.