Monuments document our history, and as the recent removal of Confederate statues in New Orleans document, they also play an important role in our present debates about politics and identity.
Now, a virtual reality app, in a move that’s part historical education and part Pokemon Go, is using virtual space as a new place to challenge how we collectively celebrate history.
According to Campaign, the recently launched Whole Story Project seeks to correct an imbalance in the way that women’s history is (or isn’t) told by our monuments and public spaces. Just 8 percent of public statues in the U.S. depict women, and in many cases, these monuments honor fictional characters. The three female characters honored in Central Park in New York City include Mother Goose, Alice from Alice in Wonderland and Shakespeare’s Juliet.
Started by Y&R, a New York ad firm, and Current Studio, an artist representation and branding agency, Whole Story created a method for users to add more female representation, albeit in virtual reality. Users can place a statue in public virtual space, which other users can later find and view via their phone (virtual statues appear when users are within 25 feet of a virtual statue).
So far, users of the app have created roughly 30 virtual monuments, including a statue of Planned Parenthood Founder Margaret Sanger. Right now, the app requires users to design their own monument in a separate program, but it’s being updated to make it possible to create a statue within the program itself.
That may sound slightly complicated, but Y&R has shown that the app is accessible to younger users. Local Girl Scout Troop 3484—which has been raising funds for a campaign to put statues of suffragist leaders Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony in Central Park—has used the program to place virtual memorial of Amelia Earhart, Nina Simone and Shirley Chisholm in Central Park.
The app’s release follows the formation of Put Her On The Map, an initiative launched by international ad agency BBDO at the AOL-sponsored Makers Conference in February dedicated to correcting the gender balance in our historical record by naming more streets and historical monuments after famous women.