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Virtual MLK Project Expands its Reach to Other Settings, Users

Vicki Gallagher

NC State’s Virtual Martin Luther King Jr. Project uses innovative technology to recreate the civil rights leader’s never-recorded 1960 speech, “Fill Up the Jails” — and transform how the public interacts with his message.

Now, the project team led by communication professor Victoria Gallagher is expanding its reach to new audiences. With support from a $146,000 American Council of Learned Societies Digital Extension Grant, the team will partner with educational and civic institutions to provide digital scholarship and immersive learning experiences related to the vMLK project. 

“The aim is to extend the project, started in 2013, to other settings where we have established partnerships, and amplify the outcomes that take place within them,” Gallagher says. The latest phase also will help provide career advancement for those involved with the project and will grow the digital humanities field.

kids writing on digital white board
Children interact with vMLK exhibit at NC State’s Hunt Library in Feb. 2020. (Photo credit: NC State University Libraries)

The impetus for the new educational component stems from the success of a pilot program the team began last year with faculty at Southeast Raleigh Magnet High School. “Essentially, the pilot tested the viability of high school educators using the vMLK site to enhance their teaching, specifically in language arts and history and social studies,” Gallagher adds.

The vMLK team created online resources, from unit plans to a user guide and teacher orientation. Those materials are now available on EDSITEment, a website supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities that provides resources for K-12 instructors across the country.

The Department of Communication helped fund the pilot project through its Faculty Grant Development Fund, established through a donation from communication alumnus John Ward. 

Going forward, Gallagher says the team will continue working with Southeast Raleigh high and incorporate feedback from its faculty. For example, the team learned the unit plans could be adapted to other subjects like geography, so a future component will be to support that possibility. The team also plans to develop a hybrid model of the vMLK exhibition, which Gallagher hopes to test with the high school’s students and faculty this school year.

Other partner institutions are North Carolina Central University and Durham’s White Rock Baptist Church, where King delivered the “Fill Up the Jails” speech. Both are longstanding project participants. Molloy College on Long Island is another partner. There, Gallagher will collaborate with former NC State communication, rhetoric and digital media doctoral student Max Renner, who is a project participant and an assistant professor at Molloy.

“We will take our content and showcase it on the Molloy campus during the King holiday weekend in 2022,” Gallagher says. Other former NC State doctoral students are working with Gallagher to bring the vMLK project and its educational resources to additional institutions, including High Point and Saint Augustine universities.

man and woman holding vMLK sign
The vMLK project will travel to Molloy College on Long Island in 2022.

Several NC State communication graduate students are part of a consulting team for the project. “The idea,” Gallagher adds, “is to move everyone forward in their careers.”

What’s next for the project? “Finding ways to collect, archive, document and preserve websites like vMLK so audiences in the future can use them,” says Gallagher.

This post was originally published in College of Humanities and Social Sciences.