play - The University of Tulsa


Gaming the Museum event encourages interactive learning in historical setting 

There is growing interest in the interdisciplinary concept of video gaming spaces inside art and history museums. Interactive games offer a more modern approach to museum learning and attract a younger group of visitors.

Incorporating play into museum design

Gaming the MuseumIn February, the Oklahoma Center for the Humanities (OCH) at The University of Tulsa and a group of TU’s Tulsa Undergraduate Research Challenge (TURC) scholars partnered to host “Gaming the Museum” at the Helmerich Center for American Research (HCAR). Students and faculty from TU’s museum studies program teamed up with TURC students majoring in computer simulation and gaming. The gaming degree combines TU’s core computer science curriculum with art, graphic design and music courses from the Kendall College of Arts and Sciences.

The free symposium in February featured a keynote presentation on the role of play in museum design from Holly Witchey, director of education and outreach for the Intermuseum Conservation Association. Other highlights included a panel discussion from museum professionals, demos of games developed by TU students and an interactive series of playable activities in HCAR.

“Play does not mean frivolous, but includes voluntary, self-directed activity,” explained Bob Pickering, professor of anthropology and director of museum science and management at TU. “Play in the digital age offers even more possibility for museums to connect with audiences of all ages.”

Tulsa is a museum destination

The City of Tulsa is an ideal setting for the exploration of play in museums because of its storied history in art and music. “Tulsa is an art town, and our museum and gallery scene is booming,” said Tara Aveilhe with the OCH. “We’re on our way to becoming a museum destination in the United States. With popular interactive exhibits like “The Experience” at AHHA, we’re seeing that adults need and want the experience of play as much as kids do.”

Gaming the MuseumTURC student Cheyanne Wheat and computer simulation and gaming/computer science double major Chandler Hummingbird presented games at the event that they have developed. Wheat’s project, “Virtual Fort Gibson,” investigates the fusion of interactive technology with accurate digital reconstructions of historical sites. Based on the town of Fort Gibson, Oklahoma, in 1841 when it was the United States’ southwestern forward post, the game incorporates archaeological and anthropological data to create an accurate representation of the fort as a locale to layer on activities. Wheat used the Unreal Game Engine program to digitally reconstruct the historical site and extracted topographical information from Google Maps data. With help from Blender 3D modeling software, she constructed artifacts and built soldiers’ quarters, block houses and a stockade.

“The objective is to allow the user to explore the fort, see objects of the period and learn about life in the 1840s on the frontier,” she said. “The player can engage in time-accurate mini interactions and explore room interiors.”

Wheat asked attendees who played her game to provide feedback, and all participants agreed they would interact with similar projects in the future. “Overall, the event was very successful and brought a lot of diverse people together,” she stated. “I think it was a great opportunity to see how Oklahoma incorporates gaming into spaces and experiences to make play accessible to both adults and children.”

Learn more about interactive gaming projects developed by TU computer simulation and gaming students.

TUniverse: The Human Connection – Playing with Sound

In this episode, Sean Latham, the Director for the Oklahoma Center for the Humanities, sits down with Mack Hagood, the Blayney Associate Professor of Comparative Media Studies at Miami University in Ohio, and the author of Hush: Media and Sonic Self-Control. Together they discuss what sound means for us, how it’s social effects have transformed over time, and just why we seem to like playing with it so much.


TUniverse: The Human Connection – An Interview with Robert Spoo

In this episode, Sean Latham, the Director for the Oklahoma Center for the Humanities, has a special sit-down interview with Bob Spoo, discussing his new book, Modernism and the Law, along with it’s exploration into the works of James Joyce and transatlantic Anglo-American modernist culture.


TUniverse: The Human Connection – Playing with Game Design

In this episode, Sean Latham, the Director for the Oklahoma Center for the Humanities, has a conversation with Tracy Fullerton, an award-winning game designer and professor at the University of Southern California. Together they explore what games allow users to do, how entertainment can be forged from the process, and why “play” is at the heart of all it.


TUniverse: The Human Connection – Playing with Education

In this episode, Sean Latham, the Director for the Oklahoma Center for the Humanities, speaks with Helen Douglass, a Tulsa Artist Fellowship Fellow and Assistant Professor of Education at the University of Tulsa. From conversations about maker-spaces to thoughts on how playing relates to education, The Human Connection keeps the conversation going and continues redefining the power of playing.


TUniverse: The Human Connection – Playing with Music (Part 2)

In this episode, Sean Latham, the Director for the Oklahoma Center for the Humanities, keeps the music conversation going with Katie Moulton, a Tulsa Artist Fellowship Fellow and writer, editor and music critic. Moulton’s understanding of not only music criticism, but also musical structure, fuels a conversation about how artist and listerns can play with music. After all, we “read” a book and “paint” a picture, but “play” music. Why is that? Find out our thoughts in this engaging episode!