Immerse Yourself in History with KnowCLT
Want to take a deeper dive into Charlotte’s expansive history? There’s now an app for that.
by Jonathan McFadden
Levine Museum of the New South
The Levine Museum of the New South‘s KnowCLT is a place-based app that immerses users into a historic journey through the Queen City’s past — whether they’re at home or out touring some of the sites and neighborhoods in person. The app’s first experience offers users an insightful exploration of Brooklyn Village, once the largest and most vibrant Black community in the Carolinas. Brooklyn was razed to the ground during urban renewal in the 1960s, but its memory lives on in one of the Levine Museum’s most popular exhibits, Brooklyn: Once a City Within a City.
“Charlotte’s history is rich, important and too often buried,” said Kathryn Hill, the museum’s president and CEO. “But we can’t begin to understand our city today unless we understand the history that got us here, and Levine Museum’s mission is to make sure that we know this city. Digital technologies enable us to bring that history alive in the places where history happened.”
What does the app feature today?
Before Second Ward transformed into Charlotte’s government district, it flourished as Brooklyn, which brimmed with Black-owned businesses, churches, community centers and more. Most of that is gone now but visitors can use their devices to relive the Brooklyn story through photos, narration, poetry, augmented reality and voices of former residents. Users can also use the app to collect and redeem rewards at Black-owned businesses.
How does it work?
There are two ways for people to experience the KnowCLT app. First, users can venture out on foot to explore seven historic Brooklyn sites. The app’s augmented reality feature adds an additional layer of interaction, allowing users to stand at the sites of former Brooklyn buildings and landmarks and get a glimpse into history through their phones. For example, someone visiting the corner of Brevard and East 2nd streets would stand on the green footprints and follow the prompts within the app to see Brevard Street Library, the first library in Charlotte to serve Black patrons, as it once stood. They will also be able to explore photos, stories, and historical information.
People who prefer to use the app at home can still access relevant content that helps enrich their understanding of this historic community, but will not be able to The experience the augmented reality feature.
Will it always only feature Brooklyn?
No, the app’s offerings will expand to include other historic areas in Charlotte. Brooklyn is just the first experience available for users today. Choosing Brooklyn as the initial virtual tour reflects the Levine Museum’s commitment to continuing to discuss the neighborhood’s history with nuance and dignity.
Said Michael J. Smith, president and CEO of Charlotte Center City Partners: “The foundation of Brooklyn and Second Ward – what was lost, what remains and what can still be – creates the cornerstone of our Center City history, collective memory and values.”
Who made it?
Levine Museum worked with local nonprofit POTIONS & PIXELS to develop the app. The Historic Brooklyn experience is part of a collaboration between the Museum and the James B. Duke Memorial Library at Johnson C. Smith University, as both institutions explore ways to use immersive technologies to tell the story of Brooklyn and other Black communities impacted by urban renewal.