The Lawrence to Co-Develop Mixed Reality Exhibits with Ohlone Youth

April 19, 2023

UPDATE: Vincent Medina and Louis Trevino have joined The Lawrence staff as part of the campus-wide ‘ottoy Initiative. The ‘ottoy Initiative aims to foster understanding of and respect for Ohlone people and culture and to repair and improve our relationship with the Ohlone community. Vincent and Louis will lead the initiative through their roles at The Lawrence and in collaboration with UC Berkeley’s Native American Thrive Initiative, Government & Community Relations, the Vice Chancellor for Research Office, and Berkeley Dining.

ORIGINAL STORY: The panoramic view of the San Francisco Bay from the Berkeley Hills is one of the most captivating attractions at The Lawrence. In addition to the gleaming San Francisco skyline, did you know that from our plaza, visitors can see present and historic Ohlone landmarks, including shellmounds and geographic features important to Ohlone stories and tradition? A new project by The Lawrence and its partners, funded by a $1.29 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant, aims to center Ohlone culture, using mixed reality technology to create immersive science experiences.

Supporting Rightful Presence in Museum Spaces: Youth as Participatory Designers of Indigenous Mixed Reality Science Exhibits is a collaboration between The Lawrence, UC Berkeley’s School of Information, and mak-’amham/Cafe Ohlone, an Ohlone cultural organization, to research and develop new museum experiences centered around Indigenous perspectives and culture. The project will engage Ohlone youth in participatory design with the goal of instilling a sense of ownership and belonging for Indigenous visitors to the museum. The Lawrence’s Ari Krakowski is the Principal Investigator on the project, with Jedda Foreman and Sarah Olsen from The Lawrence, Kimiko Ryokai from the School of Information, and mak-‘amham co-founder Vincent Medina as Co-Principal Investigators.

“After having worked with Cafe Ohlone for several years on other projects, we were giving founders Vincent Medina and Louis Trevino a tour of The Lawrence,” said Jedda Foreman, Director, Advancing Environmental Learning Initiative at The Lawrence and Co-Principal Investigator on the grant. Vincent and Louis are Indigenous cultural diplomats working to revitalize the cultural, linguistic, and culinary traditions of the Ohlone. “When we came to the view, we imagined together how cool it would be to look out and see what it looked like pre-colonization as well as the current-day landmarks, territories, and languages of local Indigenous groups.”

This walk past the view at The Lawrence partly inspired the project, as mak-’amham leadership expressed a wish that museum visitors could learn more about Indigenous science and experience the continuity, richness, and relevance of Ohlone knowledge.

Researchers will work closely with an Ohlone Advisory Committee that includes Ohlone elders and other members of the community. Recruitment for the Advisory Committee will be led by mak-’amham founder Vincent Medina. The Committee will play a central role in designing and developing the research approach and methods to be used throughout the project. 

“By engaging the Ohlone community in participatory design, we’ll learn what is important to them that we represent about Ohlone science and innovations, and Ohlone history and current context,” said The Lawrence’s Sarah Olsen Ph.D., Co-Principal Investigator.

After developing the exhibits, researchers hope to learn more about the outcomes for Indigenous youth who were a part of the design process. They will examine how youth involvement in designing exhibits can contribute to their sense of belonging in informal learning spaces, their formation of identity, their connection to Indigenous science, and to STEM in general as a possible career path. The investigators also hope the project can serve as a model for other museums and learning spaces to engage Indigenous communities and develop new STEM knowledge.

Supporting Rightful Presence in Museum Spaces is a three-year project that begins this summer. Stay tuned for more information as research and development get underway.

Meet the Researchers

Ari Krakowski
Principal Investigator
Kimiko Ryokai
Co-Principal Investigator
Jedda Foreman
Co-Principal Investigator
Sarah Olsen
Ph.D., Co-Principal Investigator
Vincent Medina and Louis Trevino
Co-founders of mak-‘amham/Cafe Ohlone

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