Finding Refuge

Nature has often inspired artists and writers.

Now an interactive digital map developed by a team at MSUM will introduce an expanded audience to art inspired by a nearby wildlife refuge.

Finding Refuge is a project between MSUM’s Center for Geospatial Studies and Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge near Rochert, Minnesota. The project encourages visitors to the refuge to creatively document their experiences – either through a photo, art, an essay, or poetry – and then geotag those pieces as they upload them to a master map online.

The idea connects cultural creativity with the natural environment. Inspiration for the project sprouted from Poetic Routes, an interactive map that highlights poetry inspired by landmarks in New Mexico.

“When we see a beautiful landscape or a loon, that moment of amazement is when we get that sparkle,” says Kevin Zepper, professor of English at MSUM and one of the Finding Refuge team members. “We’re trying to capture and share that moment of awe with everyone.”

On campus, Finding Refuge will encourage collaboration between students who study the humanities and those who study programming and mapping technologies. Together, they will create the interactive map that will enhance the rich geographical and cultural history of Tamarac.

“Our team represents diverse backgrounds,” Zepper says. “It’s exciting to work with people in other disciplines.”

The project recently received a $19,560 grant from the Minnesota State Shark Tank innovation competition. The competitive grant supports educational innovations across the state university system.

The grant will fund project hardware, including a large touch screen monitor that will be installed in the refuge’s visitor center. This will allow visitors to interact with art that has already been shared and to add their own creations.

When completed, the map will be available for anyone to view and interact with online.

“Even if you’re not at the refuge, you will be able to see the ongoing narrative,” Zepper says. “And that narrative will continue to grow.”

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