In 2019, a few leaders in the Natural and Historic Resources Division created the framework for its Inclusive Interpretation Initiative.
Our vision was simple: Every Prince George’s County resident, but really all people, deserves nothing less than a balanced and comprehensive interpretation about their history – an honest account that includes events and experiences of all people who shaped it. And, equally important, a clear understanding of how the past impacts the present.
We initially focused on our historic sites, especially those former sites of enslavement – five historic plantations located throughout the County. We quickly realized that to be truly inclusive, we needed to consider our accessibility and expand our reach beyond the Department’s historic sites. We needed to travel across the county to ensure that every resident, especially young people, can understand, appreciate, be inspired and see themselves in the events and experiences from the past. We needed to share stories from under-represented and marginalized people from thousands of years ago to today.
Enter Sankofa, a mobile museum. Our vision began by asking, “What would our country look like if everyone, especially students, had the opportunity to learn an unfiltered and undoctored version of history? What if we used our nation’s history and Prince George’s County’s rich heritage to educate communities about our past?”
Over the past four years, we worked with a wide range of partners – from expert advisors and teachers to community members and internal colleagues to exhibit designers and fabricators. Through countless hours, endless re-writes and too many pivots to mention, we created the Sankofa experience, which we hope will impact the lives of hundreds of thousands in Prince George’s County and our region and be replicated by other organizations across the Country.
Through virtual and augmented reality and facilitated discussion, the Sankofa experience connects local stories and individual experiences of resilience, activism, community and courage to national issues and timeless themes of freedom, justice and patriotism.
Visitors engage with a an inclusive, immersive and thought-provoking experience that builds a truer understanding of American history and local heritage – empowering participants to use lessons of the past to impact the future.
This work is more important than ever. There is a real and imminent threat to eliminate countless stories, struggles, and successes of men, women and children from all races, ethnicities, genders, identities and backgrounds who have fought to make the United States and Prince George’s County what is it today.
This is just the beginning and an experience expected to evolve with community engagement. There will be glitches and hiccups along the way but we’re beyond excited to share the Sankofa experience with you!