The Virtual Road Trip: A Journey Through Time on Illinois’ Route 66
Immersive History with QUED Animation and Route History
As a lover of both history and technology, I recently had the privilege of embarking on a remarkable virtual journey. Produced by us at QUED Animation in collaboration with Route History, a museum in Springfield, IL, this experience is unlike any other. It offers an immersive dive into the black experience during the Jim Crow era, traversing the Illinois leg of the iconic Route 66.
Imagine strapping on a virtual reality headset and finding yourself seated in a classic 1950s car. As you look around, you’re joined by a diverse group of characters, each representing a slice of history. There’s Minnie Lightford, a blues singer with a voice as deep as the ocean, her band tuning their instruments in the background. The Simmons family, a picture of mid-century optimism, chat excitedly about the sights. Oliver “OJ” James, a World War 2 veteran, shares his wisdom in soft-spoken words. And finally, Henry “Lightening” O’Neil, a Negro League team player, jokes with his teammates, their laughter filling the air.
The journey is more than just a road trip; it’s a portal to the past. As the virtual car moves along Route 66, the landscape changes, and so does the atmosphere inside the car. You witness firsthand the challenges these characters face – from segregation to the unspoken tensions of the era.
Minnie and her band are headed to a performance, but their path is fraught with obstacles. The experience lets you feel the weight of finding a “safe” place to rest or eat. But it’s not all somber; there’s joy in the music. Minnie’s songs, a blend of blues and the era’s struggles, create a powerful soundtrack to the journey.
The Simmons Family Adventure
For the Simmons family, this trip is a balance of fear and wonder. Their interactions highlight the dual reality of being black travelers during this period – the excitement of a family vacation shadowed by the reality of Jim Crow laws. Their story is a poignant reminder of the era’s complexities.
OJ shares stories of the war and his return to a country still grappling with racial inequality. His perspective brings a solemn but necessary depth to the experience, highlighting the contradictions of a veteran fighting for freedom abroad but facing discrimination at home.
Lightening on the Road
Henry “Lightening” O’Neil and his team’s journey is a mix of camaraderie and confrontation. Their stops in towns for games are met with mixed receptions, reflecting the era’s attitudes towards black athletes. Their resilience and spirit are truly inspiring.
This virtual experience is a masterful blend of education and emotion. It doesn’t just tell you about history; it lets you live a slice of it. The attention to detail, from the visual authenticity to the carefully crafted dialogues, makes it deeply impactful.
In collaboration with Route History, QUED Animation has created more than just a virtual experience; we’ve opened a window into the past, offering a poignant, immersive understanding of the black experience on Route 66 during the Jim Crow era. It’s a journey that stays with you, long after you’ve taken off the headset.
This virtual road trip is not just a technological marvel; it’s a vital tool for empathy and education, reminding us of the roads we’ve traveled and the paths still ahead.
Find out more on Route History’s website: https://www.routehistory.net
To take the virtual experience visit Route History at 737 East Cook Street
Springfield, IL 62703