Tag Archives: walking tour

Final HIST694 Post

It is time to close out HIST694 with a final blog post about building the prototype for Nashville Sites and doing public history.

Having just put the finishing touches on this version of my course project, I feel comfortable reflecting on the experience as a whole. I think that this course and this project has enabled me to realize the full potential of doing digital history. From developing personas, a social media strategy, and an evaluation plan to building content, metadata, and walking tours–this digital project has been both challenging and rewarding. At times this project felt like a sprint, other times it felt like a marathon. In reality, most projects dealing with large amounts of information (whether a book or a digital prototype) are both.

Perhaps most exciting is the continuation of this project beyond the semester. As I mentioned in my screencast video, this project started with an idea inspired by the Histories of the National Mall.

While I ran into technical problems with using the “mall theme” I continued my course project by creating a prototype using the Berlin Theme in Omeka. I also used Neatline to build two walking tours: Upper Broadway and Lower Broadway. These two tours focus on different historical markers and themes that will appeal to different types of audiences. I also used Exhibit Builder to create a “Up from the Cumberland,” which is a thematic exhibit with four parts: Maps and Geography, Athens of the South, Nashville’s Acropolis, and Broadway. Each of these nested pages links and cross referencing the majority of the items in my collection. Each part of the exhibit was designed to focus on different areas related to Nashville history. Following the order above, I organized these pages to target history, and historical markers, based on several categories: geography and urban growth, secondary and higher education, government, and architecture.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the course, the assignments, and I have learned a great deal. I am more confident in my abilities as a project manager, public historian, and digital humanist. I look forward to next semester and hope that the course is designed in a way that I can continue this work.

Project Progress 4/9-4/15

I have made great progress on my dual Nashville Sites projects. For the HIST694 project I have been adding content, building my exhibit, and have completed my first walking tour. Over the next week, I hope to finish the content for my exhibit, map out my second and final walking tour, and add 5-6 more items with Dublin Core info. So I should be in good shape for submitting the project for peer review and feedback at the end of next week.

The larger and permanent digital project is also moving forward. I received the bid from Fog Haus for Stage One of development to get a “Mall Histories” type site up and running by the end of the summer. I worked with Nick Lorenson to create narratives that will add a storytelling element to the project, and his firm mocked up a potential layout (see below). We are also discussing the use of BKON, which would alert users that they are near a historical marker using push notifications on smart phones. I made my presentation this past Thursday evening to the MHC Foundation Board, and they voted to approve funding for half of the Stage One amount. I will go with Tim Walker, MHC Director, to our local visitor’s bureau and another non-profit organization called Community Partners to secure the rest of the funding. The feedback was extremely positive, and I am confident that Nashville Sites will become a reality, just not this semester. I hope that our final online course through GMU will allow me to continue working on this project as part of my coursework.

Project Progress 4/1-4/8

What a week! I have several new developments to report as part of my project progress for this week. I will break it down into three parts as there are now multiple strands related to progress on Nashville Sites.

  1. As I mentioned in an earlier progress report, I made the decision to separate the class project for HIST694 from the actual project that I hope will go live sometime between August and November 2017.  While I started this process wanting to build something that could be developed after the semester, I realized that it would actually be easier to build my digital project for the class and then work to migrate the content into a more desirable (mobile-friendly) customized theme and design layout. In other words, for this class, the content remains most important and so I should spend my time on that while simultaneously working to make the actual final project a reality. This weekend, I’ve spent a great deal of time on the course project and have finally made some headway.  I’ve set up the framework for a thematic exhibit with nested pages. I have also decided to use Neatline rather than Curatescape to create my walking tours. After running into several technical glitches with Curatescape, I found that Neatline serves my purposes just as well, although I wish I could find a way to list the walking tours in one of the text boxes on the homepage rather than just a tab. I’ve not yet seen any way to do this, but perhaps there is a workaround. I still have content to add, but I now have my first (of three) walking tours set up and mapped.
  2. In terms of Nashville Sites beyond this course, I also have progress to report. After meeting with Nick Lorenson of Code Nashville, nearly three weeks ago, we had a great meeting last week. After looking at several existing sites (based on place) that we would like to model in some way (Philly, Cleveland, Mall Histories, WWI: Love and Sorrow) as well as looking at the capabilities of themes, plug-ins, etc., Nick proposed three options. We could continue with Omeka and try to update the existing Mall Theme. We could also continue with Omeka but build a new theme. Finally we could use WordPress instead of Omeka because it would be easier to find technical support and local contacts who could help. He concluded that while he is unfamiliar with Omeka that from the back end it is something that he would be comfortable working with and that it seems to be better suited to accomplish the project’s goals (user-friendly, engaging, educational, scholarly sound). That led to a second meeting, which I had this morning. The meeting was with Fog Haus, a computer/web engineering firm. It is a small firm and includes Nick and two partners. We had a great meeting. They are enthusiastic, visionary, and can do the technical “stuff” that I cannot. We spent a great deal of time going through sites, looking at options, and coming up with a plan. This course sure has come in handy as we discussed responsive design, audience, personas, and storyboarding. I shared with them several of the assignments that I have completed for this course! (And they are very impressed might I add, so thank you Dr. Leon.)
  3.  So where does all this go from here? Following my meeting with Fog Haus, they are working on a bid to design and build the project. I just got off the phone with Tim Walker (MHC director) and continue to have his full support. I am slated to present my project to the MHC Foundation in a week at the quarterly board meeting. So I am anxious to get the bid from Fog Haus and equally anxious to see if the MHC Foundation will/can fund it. As for the course project, now that I have it off the ground I need to continue to build the content as related exhibits, and walking tours. I hope to have more time to do so in the coming days.

“Nashville Sites” Project Proposal

Title:
Nashville Sites: Understanding Nashville’s Narrative using Public Historical Markers
Institution:
Metropolitan Historical Commission of Nashville and Davidson County
Project Director:
Mary Ellen Pethel, Ph.D.
Grant Program:
Digital Projects for the Public: Prototyping Grants

In 1967, the newly-formed Metropolitan Historical Commission of Nashville and Davidson County (MHC) initiated a historical marker program to commemorate significant people, places, and events in the city’s past. With over 150 historical markers now in the county, this program is one of the most successful, and most public projects to date. There is quite an extensive process to erect a marker, but most importantly: “Every statement on a Metropolitan Historical Commission marker must satisfy two conditions: Is it significant? Is it accurate?” (http://bit.ly/2lkfo8Z). For this project, I will begin with these two historical questions and expand to include the following:

  1. How can marker content be complemented with other primary sources to convey a more engaging and important story.
  2. How can this digital history project combine individual entries for markers to create a broader historical narrative for downtown Nashville’s historical site markers.
  3. In what ways can I connect this project to other significant downtown sites  where there are not metro historical markers.
  4. How can I best engage audiences both local and visiting to participate in the walking tour, and how can I best use historical scholarship to support this project.
  5. Are there connections to the broader arts and humanities community that I can easily incorporate?

Omeka will be the primary format for “Nashville Sites” with an interface based on a modified version of “Histories of the National Mall.” This project, sponsored by an NEH grant and developed by George Mason University and the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media leads the way in digital histories based on public history sites within a particular geographical area. “Nashville Sites” will follow a similar thematic layout based the following categories: maps, explorations, and places. In contrast to mallhistory.org , this project will designate and create a walking tour based on existing, physical historical markers. The site for this project is nashvillesites.org and relevant primary documents will be available for each destination point. These primary sources include images, renderings, and other media files.

In addition to these project resources, digital technologies will enhance metadata available via public records. Curatescape will be used to provide latitude/longitude for geo-spatial mapping, Omeka exhibits will organize marker text and context, and there will also be additional outside links related to selected markers. Points to be included for this project range from the earliest known business to the Ryman Auditorium to historical churches to government buildings.

This format will effectively convey Nashville’s historical narrative based on a humanities-centered approach. Selected markers in the downtown core will be used as the prototype for a larger long-term project will ultimately include all existing markers managed by MHC. The Metropolitan Historical Commission is the steward of two commissions which guide historic preservation projects for metro Nashville. The MHC is funded by the citizens of Davidson County through tax revenues with an annually appropriated budget. In addition, MHC is supported by a separate 501(c)(3)—Metropolitan Historical Commission Foundation (MHCF). The MHCF solicits outside funding and donations for projects that exceed the commission’s budgetary scope. The MHCF has verbally committed to additional funding as this project develops, and the MHC staff is currently collaborating and providing data and sources related to “Nashville Sites.”

The timeline for the project, for this stage, is May 2017. However, it is my hope that funding from MHCF will continue this project until all 150 markers are part of the digital project. There are several targeted audiences: visitors (tourists), local residents, and students. Reaching these audiences will depend on whether or not the project is user-friendly, which is why I am using a web rather than an app-based platform. Evaluation of “Nashville Sites” will be determined, in large part, by the number of hits the site generates from month to month once fully functional.

Distribution and sustainability with specific public user groups will depend on continued support and funding through the MHCF, the development of a social media presence, and the promotion of nashvillesites.org via visible signage on the markers themselves and brochures (and the like) in local businesses and hotels.