Digitally Preserving Rosenwald Schools

Rosenwald School Classroom

Between 1914 and 1932, more than 5,000 Rosenwald schools were built across the rural South to advance the education of African American children. Through the leadership of Booker T. Washington, founder of Tuskegee Institute, and the philanthropy of Julius Rosenwald, President of Sears & Roebuck, the Rosenwald Fund was created to build schools and improve education of African Americans in the largely segregated and rural South. CADC faculty members, Junshan Liu and Gorham Bird are doing research on Rosenwald Schools in Alabama. Almost 400 Rosenwald schools were built in Alabama, but it is uncertain how many of those schools still exist; many of the buildings in Alabama have fallen into disrepair and are at high risk of destruction. Liu and Bird are working to find, document, and digitally preserve the schools before they disappear.

Funding from a CADC Seed Grant, McWhorter Fund for Excellence Grant, and the Auburn University Creative Work and Social Impact Scholarship Program will allow the team to test their approach at a sample of Rosenwald schools in the state. The documentation and digital preservation workflow combine on-site surveys using 3D laser scanning, 360-degree photography, UAV aerial photogrammetry, and BIM technology. Working with partners at the Alabama Historical Commission (AHC), the project team has identified four Rosenwald Schools in Alabama for this initial work.

For more information about the project, read the article Building Science, Architecture faculty digitally preserving Alabama’s disappearing Rosenwald Schools.

Junshan Liu is Associate Professor in the McWhorter School of Building Science. Gorham Bird is Visiting Assistant Professor in the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture.

Related people:
Junshan Liu, Gorham Bird