Tag Archives: Historical Society

App Spotlight: Texas Time Travel Tours

7 Jul

Q&A with Susan Shore, Heritage Tourism Program Specialist at the Texas Historical Commission

Texas Time Travel Tours, the mobile app created by the Texas Historical Commission, is a true portrait of Texas. The app features over 550 sites, 170 of which are highlighted with audio and video. Currently there are seven statewide tours in the app and one site-specific tour for THC historic property Fulton Mansion. Points of interest cover the entire state, from Amarillo to Brownsville, to Texarkana to El Paso. The primary goal for the app is to inspire people to travel Texas and specifically historic sites, whether that is a historic fort or a downtown district.

Q. Why did the Texas Historical Commission decide to create an app?

A. 
Our team had been considering the development of a mobile app for some time. We traditionally have created travel guides in a print format, but not only is it quite expensive, it limits the content we can include. In addition to broadening our user demographic by introducing Texas history on a mobile device, we also wanted to broaden our storytelling capacity to drive visitation to communities across the state. The THC’s motto is “real places telling real stories”—what better way than to encourage travel to those places?

Q. What are the benefits for visitors to use the app?

A. Accessing the stories of Texas using the app allows the user to have information at the ready on their personal device, whether they are traveling to a location or simply viewing from the comfort of home. Once the full native app format is complete with individual tour download capability, users will have more complete access to points of interest in areas of the state that are quite remote and have limited cell/wifi connectivity.

As mentioned earlier, the app allows for rich visual storytelling with the inclusion of image galleries and video, something not possible using print formats.

We have lots of stories to tell! The app’s capacity to house multiple tours gives users access to all of it with just a click or a swipe. Users can also quickly know what places are close to them by using the Nearby map that shows points of interest for all tours.

Q.  How did the THC team go about planning such a large project?

A. Planning began about a year before the initial RFP was issued. We researched other apps for excellence in both storytelling and user experience, and developed a strong vision for our end product. While we had a long list of functions we would like to have in the app, we also realized that the costs of having a platform custom developed for our project probably didn’t meet the long term ROI. We found that already established platforms like the one offered by OnCell could meet our needs with some customization.

Q. Can you tell us a little about how the content was created for the tours?

A. Most of the initial tours built upon existing agency print guides or guides under development. These guides served as the foundational material to help define the scope of each tour. We established small groups of subject matter experts and advisory stakeholders to work with the staff development team. We contracted external vendors for scriptwriting and video production services.

Q. Can you tell us about your marketing strategy for the app?

A. Much of our publicity is tied to the THC’s social media channels–Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and blog posts. Videos from all of the tours are included on our YouTube channel and descriptively tied to the app. This also makes it easier to embed in posts on other channels like Facebook. We experience very high engagement on Facebook when video stories are included in posts about the different tours on the app.

Launches for individual tours are tied to related external events when practical. For example, La Salle Odyssey launch corresponded to the opening of a new permanent installation of the reconstructed ship, La Belle, in a major museum. Hispanic Texas launched during National Hispanic Heritage Month.

Each tour provides many storytelling opportunities, and will make it easy for us to continue promotions throughout the year with little or no content repetition. All of these contain language that directs user to the full app experience.

Q. What advice would you give to other organizations who are looking to create an app?

A. Do your research and ask questions for both platform selection and content development. Keep your audience top-of-mind and be consistent in the style and quality of all elements of the project.

Texas Time Travel Tours features an immersive blend of interpretive audio with first person interviews, video, and image galleries that allows users to experience the real places and real stories of Texas. GPS features allow visitors to locate nearby points of interest and offers people an easy way to share content with social media. Explore the rich heritage of Texas by downloading the app, available for iOS in the App Store and Android in Google Play. Access the web app on any web-enabled device at http://texastimetravel.toursphere.com

App Spotlight: Geneva Historical Society

22 Mar

Q&A with Kerry Lippincott, Executive Director at the Geneva Historical Society

Founded in 1883, the Geneva Historical Society preserves and tells the stories of Geneva, New York through three historic house museums–the Geneva History Museum at the Prouty-Chew House, Rose Hill Mansion, and Johnston House. They launched their first cell phone tour with OnCell in early 2014 and have recently migrated their tour over to our new app builder.

Q. What were the main goals for creating your app?

A. We had two main goals for the app. First, our mission is to preserve and share Geneva’s stories and the app provides us with another tool to share those stories, including the historic photographs from our collection. Second, the app makes it easy and convenient for visitors to explore Geneva–whether its during their visit or after, the app gives them instant access to the tour’s content.

Q. What are the benefits for visitors to use the app?

A. The biggest benefit is the map which allows visitors to navigate around the city. Also, the simple convenience of it–listen, read, or do both; go at your own speed; pick and choose what stops; the ability to return as many times as you want.

Q. What do you see as the biggest benefit of having a tour?

A. It takes the historical society out of the building and into the streets. It’s like having your own personal curator or tour guide–everything is right there in your pocket!

Q. What advice would you give to other organizations who are looking to create a tour?

A. It’s all about the story. Find the places and people that make your location unique and share those stories. Yet, you don’t want to overwhelm visitors, so keep the stories short and simple. Also, if you are an organization with an extensive photo collection, the tour is a great way to share it.

Q. What benefits do you see from migrating your tour to the new platform?

A. The ability to provide more content for the visitor and information about the Geneva Historical Society. Hopefully the tour will pique visitors’ interest in Geneva and its history so they will visit our museums and make return visits to our town.

Q. How did you like working with the app builder?

A. So far so good.  For a non-techie like me, its been easy to use.

Q. Can users expect to see any new content in the upcoming year?

A. For right now we are keeping things simple, so those that are already familiar with our tour can expect to see new photographs with this re-launch. Down the road, the plan is to add some additional stops and perhaps more content through sub-pages. We also intend to customize it more with a calendar of events and implement the social media features available to us in the builder.

Geneva Historical Tour App

The Geneva Historical Society mobile tour app can be accessed on any web-enabled device at http://genevahistory.toursphere.com
or scan the QR code.

App Spotlight: Des Plaines History Center

21 Nov

Q&A with Shari Caine, Executive Director at the Des Plaines History Center

Founded in 1968, the Des Plaines History Center collects, preserves, and interprets the history of Des Plaines, Illinois and its people and provides access to those resources through exhibits, educational programs, and research facilities. They launched their mobile walking tour in late October, 2014, which includes interpretive audio for 10 historic sites in downtown Des Plaines and features a room-by-room tour of the Kinder House–a 1907 Queen Anne home turned museum.

Q. Why did you decide to create an app for your organization?

A. This was something we’ve been discussing for the past year. We wanted to do something technology-based that was interactive and available to as many people as possible. At first, we talked about working with an app developer, but around the same time we learned about what TourSphere had to offer, and after trying it out, we knew it was the type of app-making tool we could use ourselves.

Q. What are your interpretive goals and what are the benefits for people to use the app?

A. Our goals include increasing attendance, improving the quality of program content through historical interpretation, and increasing awareness of history in the community. We believe that this app will serve as both a great educational tool and a marketing tool, helping to make people more aware of the history of the community and bring in more visitors to the History Center. The proximity of the walking tour to our downtown area will reach many people who are in the area, whether they are residents, commuters, or visitors. The nearby transportation services, including the bus transfer points and the train station, are opportunities for us to promote the app further.

Q.  What advice would you give to other organizations who are looking to create an app?

A.  First, I would suggest that they determine whether they need someone to create and design the app for them, or if they are willing to do the work themselves. Then, I would recommend they look into all the tools that are available, compare the costs for each option, and take advantage of opportunities to test out the free trial for app-building tools. Finally, they will need to identify their potential audiences and how far they can reach by using the app to bring in new visitors.

Q.  Can you tell us a little about how you created the audio content?

A. The script was written by our Curator based on information and photographs from our historical archives. The audio was created by a volunteer who works in the IT field and who also has a bit of a background in voice acting and recording. He recorded the digital files from his own studio and delivered them to us. We were fortunate to find someone willing to work with us on a volunteer basis. I would recommend working with a volunteer to keep costs low, but it’s important to interview the person first, and review their demos, in order to assess their level of skill, knowledge, and ability in this type of work.

Q.  How are you planning to market the tour?

A. We held a special event on October 17, planned in conjunction with a re-opening of the second floor of our house museum. There was a special introduction to the walking tour app featured during the event. We also published information about the new app in our newsletter, and we’ve been interviewed by the local newspaper. In addition to the publicity for the special event, we will also distribute a poster and other materials relating to the app itself, with QR codes printed large enough for passersby to see as they are in the area of a building that is featured on the tour. We will promote the tour on a continual basis throughout the community, at other events, and through our Facebook and Twitter feeds, as well as in other community publications. We also just had a group of 44 high-school aged German exchange students visit the History Center, and they participated in a demonstration of the walking tour app.

Des Plaines Mobile Tour App Screenshots and QR code

The Des Plaines mobile tour app can be accessed on any web-enabled device at http://desplainestour.toursphere.com

App Spotlight: Newport Historical Society Native Apps

5 Sep

Q&A with Stacie Parillo, Head of Collections and Manager of Digital Initiatives at Newport Historical Society

Newport App Splash ScreenThe Newport Historical Society originally launched their web app in November of 2012. TourSphere worked closely with the NHS team to develop a custom theme and build an app that launched a historic properties tour with over 40 sites. They have continued to grow their app over time to include special digital exhibitions of unique treasures from their collection, tours by theme, and additional points of interest that include the famed Newport Cliff Walk. The NHS has broadened the accessibility of their app by releasing both a native iOS and Android app.

Q. Can you say a few words about the success of the app?

A. The app represents an exciting new way for the public to access historical content that the NHS has generated, as well as raises local awareness of Newport’s historic significance by providing pride of place for residents. The app replaces the need for museum-loaned devices as visitors can access Explore Historic Newport from their own personal devices. A supplement to our guided tours, users of the app can curate their own experience of historic Newport, from anywhere in the world, any time of day or night. The history of Newport is now accessible in a way that it never was before.

Q. Why did you decide to create new native apps in addition to the web app?

A. We discovered that many people do not know how to use or are not very familiar with technology and many smartphone users are accustomed to going to either the App Store or Google Play to search for and download an app. The native apps were created to help those that were unfamiliar with the concept of a web app to still be able to access the content via the app stores – many smartphone users instinctively jump to the native stores when they think of mobile apps, so we wanted to work with that behavior.

Q. How do the native apps fit into your interpretive goals?

A.  The native apps will increase exposure and access, which will allow the app to do what we hoped from the onset – put Newport history in the palms of peoples’ hands.

Q. Do you have any new content that people familiar with the app may not know about?

A. Because the app is so flexible and accommodating, it is also infinitely expandable. A newer addition to the app is the integration of NHS exhibit content, allowing visitors to learn more about collections items on exhibit as well as the opportunity to virtually visit the exhibit. We have also started generating born-digital exhibits curated by interns that highlight their subject expertise and our collections. Historic sites continue to be added on a routine basis, and soon to be added are oral histories, video, and more exhibit content.

Q. How do you like working with the team at TourSphere and the App Builder?

A. We’ve had a very positive experience building the app with TourSphere – the team has been very responsive to our questions and concerns and have been quick to help us solve any issues that arise. The interface of the CMS is very intuitive, and has been able to be used by several staff members with little training, making it very easy and convenient to continually add content. It was important to us to make the app dynamic and current. We did not see this as a project that would ever be completed. The app would continually grow, never getting stagnant and TourSphere’s CMS allows us to do just that.

Download the native iOS and Android apps to take a tour through historic Newport, RI.

app-availability-appstore

Available on Google Play

App Spotlight: Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Area

16 Apr

March-14-Blog-smartphone-NFUR-homeThe Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Area celebrates and preserves the wealth of places and stories associated with the Underground Railroad found within the City of Niagara Falls and the surrounding region. During the 1800s the city was an established border crossing and served a critical role in the Underground Railroad by providing safe passage of slaves into Canada via ferry and the Suspension Bridge. Within the region there was an active network of Abolitionists and anti-slavery activists that helped provide money, food, and shelter to fugitive slaves, in addition to providing jobs and education to African Americans.

OnCell-TourSphere worked closely with the Heritage Area Committee and Environmental Design & Research, a landscape and environmental design consulting firm, to create a custom designed tour app that details the many historic sites across the region. The app consists of both a walking and driving tour, which overlap across multiple sites. The app offers interpretation via detailed history and historic imagery, and includes an interactive map which marks the tour routes.

Scan the QR code to tour the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage app or visit: http://niagarafallsundergroundrailroad.toursphere.com

Scan the QR code to tour the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage app or visit:
http://niagarafallsundergroundrailroad.toursphere.com

App Spotlight: Peirce Mill Tour

7 Dec

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Peirce Mill is the last existing mill in the District of Columbia and the only 19th-century gristmill maintained by the National Park Service that operates on a full-time basis. On the National Register of Historic Places, Peirce Mill is a living museum and tribute to the 1820s economy of America and D.C.’s agrarian past. Despite changes over time, the sturdy exterior and interior retain the authentic appearance and atmosphere of a 19th century grist mill, with 170 year-old stone walls, authentic wooden milling machinery, hand-hewn beams and columns, and heavy oak floor boards.

Visitors to the mill can augment their authentic historic experience with a mobile app from TourSphere, providing a richer tour of the old mill. An interactive map of the site  allows visitors to get a real-time read on their location and see everything the mill has to offer. Clicking on any of the sites, immediately calls up the appropriate tour features. This feature ensures engagement of the visitor and that visitors won’t miss areas they’re not aware of. It also allows the app creator to cross-promote local partners and other sites of interest.

At any of the stops along the tour, the mobile app provides history, background and insight that’s not apparent simply by visiting the site. Some stops add multimedia with archival photos. A mobile app provides a more flexible and economical solution to displaying these types of artifacts than presenting them at the site itself.

Custom to the Peirce Mill tour, a hand-drawn interactive diagram of the mill allows the user to touch each component and learn how it works, providing more insight into the history of the site as part of the agrarian economy.

Finally, the Peirce Mill app allows the museum to increase engagement even further with information in its mobile app about school programs, activities to do on the mill site (like picnicking and hiking), and an interactive survey that provides real-time information to the museum about its visitors’ preferences and experiences.

To view the Peirce Mill App, visit http://peircemill.toursphere.com or scan this QR code with your smartphone.

To view the Peirce Mill App, visit http://peircemill.toursphere.com or scan this QR code with your smartphone.

History and Technology: A Perfect Marriage

16 Nov

Newport, Rhode Island is known as an iconic location filled with historical nods to the past, through the mansions lining the coast, historic meeting houses and buildings downtown, as well as its role in the American Revolution. The Newport Historical Society has married its love and dedication to history, with technology, by providing visitors a TourSphere mobile app to explore Historic Newport.

The Newport Historical Society is dedicated to collecting, preserving and sharing items from Newport’s past. Their mobile app allows the public to peruse news, events, offerings and resources and take a step back in time. Guests can also virtually visit the Museum and Gift Shop through their phone. The app, sponsored by a local Real Estate Company, is a great example of monetizing a mobile app and providing a local company great exposure to their target audience. We’ve got some more helpful tips on this topic here.

This season, The Newport Historical Society has lots to talk about! December 1st marks the beginning of the Holiday season, with their Open House event, and proceeding Holiday Lantern Tours. Next week, the Newport Mansions also debut their holiday look, with festive decorations that are not to be missed. So, first check out the mobile app and then plan your visit to historical Newport this season!

To view the Mobile Tour of The Newport Historical Society visit http://newport.toursphere.com or scan this QR code with your smartphone.

To view the Mobile Tour of The Newport Historical Society visit http://newport.toursphere.com or scan this QR code with your smartphone.

A Mobile App for Lexington Historical Society

15 Aug

Relive the Battle of Lexington and Concord on this mobile app from Toursphere.

Learning about history has a whole new meaning with the new mobile app recreating the Battle of Lexington.  The app from Toursphere gives visitors an opportunity to relive crucial moments of the Revolutionary War in an engaging way.

One awesome feature about the app is the ability to take the tour in multiple ways. For all the history buffs out there, take the time to watch the videos and read the expandable information on the battle and its leading events. For others who may want a condensed version, simply take the tour the way it’s designed to get an interesting, historical overview of the famous battle.

To view the Mobile Tour of the Battle of Lexington visit http://lexington.toursphere.com or scan this QR code with your smartphone.

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