An Incredible Find…

As I was searching through the Editor’s Choice Selection on Digital Humanities Now, I discovered a blog post by Sheila Brennan announcing the launch of a new public history site Histories of the National Mall, mallhistory.org created by the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media with funding from the National Endowment of the Humanities. This site, which claims to inform users about the hidden histories of this popular tourist attraction, is interesting  for several reasons. First, I just came back from a trip to DC in February and I remember wandering through various museums and viewing monument that mark the landscape of the Mall and thinking about the stories that are not told.

megan

Girl who looks like me in front Capitol because I took no pictures of myself

This incredible new site, built on Omeka (not the free version) offers tourists a way to learn about stories, such Washington’s first race riot, as they are moving through the Mall. By using overlaying software – that is too complicated for me to understand – Brennan and others constructed a map with points that visitors can click on. This = super cool feature gives viewers access to the stories of important landmarks such as the Washington Monument and events taking place every day in the Mall. Effectively, the site allows people to explore this place in a brand new way.

 

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The Map

By clicking on a point you can also zoom in on certain areas you want to explore.

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Zoom in shot of Washington Monument

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“Beef Depot Point” Page you are brought to when you click on it.

This site gets another gold star because it does not require users to download any apps. According to Lennon, this makes it easier for both users and the creators. For us users, it is efficient and does not take up space on whatever device we are using. Futhermore, it can be used on a range of of products and brands. For the creators, it ensures that they do not have constant updates.

So far, this feature has been positively reviewed on Twitter:

“Natasha Barrett @NatashaBarret18

@jonvoss @sleonchnm Fab resource, this is great! Great functionality, content, graphic design. Love that you don’t need to download an app

2:49 PM – 6 Mar 2014″

 

In addition to this map, the site allows users to go on scavenger hunts for objects while they are visiting various landmarks. I think this is a great interactive tool. On a more practical note, the layout of the site is really easy to navigate and user-friendly. For instance, in the “Exploration” section, users are led into small exhibits by clicking on a series of common questions written on coloured blocks. Not only is this visually appealing, but the questions also make you want to learn.

This site demonstrates how tools from the digtal humanities can allow publican historians to add new dimensions to already existing cultural landmarks in a way that is easy for tourists to use. In addition, it addresses many of the topics covered in this course including digtal storytelling and space-based locatmotive computing and raises issues about how to best use these programs. Furthermore, it may be an interesting case study for scholars studying memory and place or those wanting to try their hand at cultural landscaping. Finally, reading through Brennan’s blog in which she documents the process, I cannot help seeing connections between their project and ours. I think we could really learn a lot by comparing notes.

In her blog, Sheila Brennan discusses the challenges of compeleting a project like this one, including the steps she took to obtain funding, the huge time commitment it took and others that related to writing for a public audience. All of which could be extremely helpful to us in our work with Air Canada.

I encourage everyone to check out this site,  explore its  great features  and spread the word if you or anyone you know are visiting DC in the near future!