National Endowment for the Humanities awards $300,000 to Professor Wendy Cadge’s Boston Hidden Sacred Spaces project

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has awarded $300,000 to support the project Boston’s Hidden Sacred Spaces, a partnership between Brandeis University and San Francisco-based Walking Cinema. 

The funding extends the work of an NEH-funded prototype to map and tell the stories of sacred spaces using 3D and interactive technologies. The project team is led at Brandeis by Wendy Cadge, Professor of Sociology and incoming Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, in collaboration with Ian Roy, Director for Research Technology and Innovation, at the Brandeis MakerLab. Michael Epstein, director of Walking Cinema, is the project’s Principal Investigator.  

This project utilizes 3D technology to preserve sacred spaces in the greater Boston area as well as create a compelling podcast about how clues in these spaces reveal a deep transformation of the American religious experience. For years, 3D technology has been used in archeology, architecture, and religious studies to scan objects and spaces with the aim of preserving and analyzing them, such as digital representations of ancient Greek pottery or comparing architectural features of Egyptian mosques. Boston’s Hidden Sacred Spaces will work with clergy, scholars and public radio journalists to produce an audio series and companion 3D environments to create the first podcast that teleports audiences into the spaces of the stories.  

Audiences will virtually move around these spaces leveraging the capabilities of smartphones and Augmented Reality devices to deliver high fidelity audio and project images into audience surroundings. In this way, audiences become both detectives and archeologists, examining these hidden sacred spaces as they dig into the rich history of their construction and current challenges.  

“We are excited that the NEH sees the value of our prototype project and is investing in its extension,” Cadge said. “Charting the evolution of the sacred spaces in the Boston area -- especially those usually overlooked or forgotten -- will tell us not only about the history of American religion but also help us understand its future.”

“As our movement has been restricted over the past year due to the pandemic, there has been a rising interest in immersive storytelling: audio, zoom performances, and augmented reality that transport audiences to other places” explains Michael Epstein from Walking Cinema. “With Hidden Sacred Spaces we are creating a place-based podcast that allows audiences to step inside Boston’s recondite places of worship.”

"All of our efforts around ‘sciencing the past’ are aimed at making higher quality data more accessible to more people," said Ian Roy, the Brandeis MakerLab director. "The more hearts and minds we can connect to these spaces, the more connections, conclusions and personal meaning they will be able to draw."

The project began on Jan. 1, 2021 and is expected to be released to the public in early 2022. When completed, the 3D experience and podcast will be available at as well as the website of the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab at

Categories: General, Humanities and Social Sciences, Research

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