University of Rochester Creating a Digital History of a Fort in Ghana Used by Slave Traders

A new digital history project at the University of Rochester in New York will create a website with meticulously detailed virtual tours of a 1632 English fort on the coast of Ghana that was among the earliest to send enslaved Africans to the American colonies.

The portal will enable site visitors to travel across time and space to visit the slave trade fort as it is today, as it was in 2019 during an archaeological dig, and in the year 1790. The website, which will be accessible to the public and other researchers free of charge, will also include a digital archive of historical documents, archaeological findings, and slave trade data related to the site, and a guide documenting how the virtual tours were created.

The current project enlists scores of students, researchers, and faculty members from multiple disciplines and institutions, both in the United States and abroad. Enormous data sets for the project have already been amassed from previous archaeological excavations, photogrammetry, and laser scans. The project also plans to make a follow-up visit to Ghana early next year to capture 360-degree videos and to interview site guides.

Because racism “has been centuries in the making, reconciliation depends upon all Americans understanding a Black history extending back four centuries temporally and across the Atlantic world spatially,” explains Michael Jarvis, a professor of history at the University of Rochester and leader of the project. “Although no substitute for an actual visit, this project will make virtual visitation possible for a historic site every bit as important to American history as Jamestown or Plymouth Rock.”

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