- Associated Press - Sunday, February 28, 2016

BEATRICE, Neb. (AP) - Visitors to the Homestead National Monument in southeast Nebraska might one day learn about the challenges pioneers faced by donning virtual reality glasses to tour an exhibit.

Officials are considering developing high-tech exhibits at the park, but it’s not yet clear which ideas will end up in the long-term plans officials are developing, The Beatrice Daily Sun reported (https://bit.ly/1XTrtQv ).

Park Superintendent Mark Engler led a community meeting last week about the plans.

Engler said he’s intrigued by the idea of using a virtual reality presentation in a one-room school house at the park to help connect with younger visitors.

For that kind of exhibit, Engler said visitors would wear a headset as they walked through and would get a chance to interact with a virtual teacher from the 1800s.

“You could learn about what they were doing in their school, you could learn about how the kids behaved, you could learn about the books they were using,” Engler said. “I think from experiences like that . people would recognize that maybe things don’t change as much as we think they change.”

Developing a virtual reality program would take time and resources, so officials are focused on doing more with tools they already have online.

“We know that in order for us to attract the millennials, the future people who are going to be visiting this monument, we need to be communicating to them through social media, because that’s the tool being used right now,” Engler said.

The monument is also working with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the National Archives and Records Administration to digitize 30 million historical documents including birth certificates, citizenship records and land claims. The plan is to make those documents available online.

Monument staff will use the comments they receive to draft a plan for the next five to seven years.

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Information from: Beatrice Sun, https://www.beatricedailysun.com


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