Project Description

The aim of this project is to bring the history of Behrend to life using immersive reality (XR). Much of Penn State Behrend’s history is only available, through books, or by visiting the John M. Lilley Library to view the Penn State Behrend Archives. The archives offer an abundant collection of artifacts, documents, and audio/visual material, but are difficult for much of the community to access. With development and curation, the history of Behrend has the potential to come to life and be experienced in many new and uniquely immersive mediums. The Immersive Behrend History Project is a project conceived by VAR Lab and being developed in collaboration with Dr. Elisa Beshero-Bondar (DIGIT).

Our team plans to hire a number of student researchers to bring the history of the Behrend family, Glenhill Farm, and the Penn State Behrend campus alive through an immersive augmented reality and web-based experience. The experience would showcase the history through immersive, audio/visual means and demonstrate the juxtaposition of the current campus with pictures and video of Glenhill Farm and the Behrend College in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s.

Three student research teams will work on this project, including (a) student programmers who will code and build the application; (b) student researchers focused on content creation for use in the immersive application; and (c) student researchers focused on digitally curating the existing Behrend Archives to make the material more accessible to the community as well as for use within the immersive application. collaboration of students with diverse skillset will further the open lab concept that we strive for.

This project will also help to create a deeper sense of belonging among Behrend students and faculty by providing a fun, immersive, and educational experience that showcases the history of their campus. Moreover, given the realities of our current circumstances (e.g., remote work and schooling due to COVID-19) development of these new immersive mediums would also fill the need for remote accessibility options which will still be useful long after COVID-19.


For a brief sense of one type of immersive experience being developed in this project, we present these 70+ year old silent film clips of the Behrend family. Imagine being able to see the juxtaposition between these clips from the 1930-40s and the Behrend campus as it is today. Going even further, imagine using augmented reality to superimpose the Behrend family and their dogs (first video below) running through the modern day Behrend campus. Or imagine being able to see Ernst Behrend diving into the pool outside of Glenhill (video 2). The possibilities to create a variety of immersive historical experiences are as exciting as they are endless.


Behrend family and their dogs in front of Turnbull & Glenhill


Ernst Behrend diving into Glenhill pool


YMCA gymnastics event at Glenhill