Where are we?

The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media Mobile for Media project by Sharon Leon, Shelia Brennan, Dave Lester, and Andrea Odiorne, assessed mobile app usage in museums and encouraged museums to look outside of the in-gallery experience to use apps.  One way to leave the four walls of a museum is to combine the ingenuity of technology with the power of place and create apps and other digital experiences that layer history and location.

Geography intersects the big questions asked by many humanities, as explained by Jo Guldi in What is the Spacial Turn?  ‘Spacial turn’ refers to looking back, “the process of retrospection,” in physical space, and is usually meant as a way to explain neogeography and GIS.  Humanities are looking back to review how space has influenced different disciplines, such as history, over time.  From 1880 – 1960, the humanities concerned themselves with questions on how humans situated themselves in space.  Following the 1970s, ideas of space, territory, and power became intertwined.  Guldi summarizes,

“We remember that every discipline in the humanities and social sciences has been stamped with the imprint of spatial questions about nations and their boundaries, states and surveillance, private property, and the perception of landscape, all of which fell into contestation during the nineteenth century.”

Guldi shows that history and the means to study history (such as archaeology) and closely linked and dependent on ideas of space, location, and time.  How can museums use this approach in ways that are practical and engaging?

Mobile for Media provided some examples of apps for museums, as well as the steps to design and implement such projects in ways that are affordable and practical.  A Place for Everything:  Museum Collection, Technology, and the Power of Place by John Russick, Director of Curatorial Affairs at the Chicago History Museum, talked about making Chicago oo.  This augmented reality app laid out Chicago History Museum’s historical images over a map of Chicago.  Russick discusses how museum’s are focused on preservation and how that priority means that accessibility and access take a back-seat.  Apps can help move a museum’s collection – especially things like images that are hard to display – out into the public’s grasp.  His Chicago oo project reminded me of Philaplace, a website that places images of historical Philadelphia on a map.

Romans brings the sites and objects of Roman Cirencester or Corinium Dobunorum together in a way that has never been possible before.” This app uses archaeological remains and physical remains to guide a visitor through Cirencester. There is a tour through town, a museum tour, and a learning app for teachers. See? Apps can be used for more than teaching modern US history!!

This augmented reality, spacial context concepts have so much potential!  Think about how this could be used for an archaeology site.  It is hard to show what an ancient site may have looked like and it is also difficult to show what objects were found where at a site.  As we have discussed many times before, without context objects are meaningless, for both archaeologists and historians.  Like the Chongno Alleys, an anthropology project that uses GPS to show Seoul visitors off-the-beaten-path places, an archaeology app could also benefit from a GPS component.  An app for an archaeology site could follow this same model and use GPS to help a visitor find important locations at an archaeology site.  Chongno Alleys users receive a stamp when they visit a site, a rewards-system almost like a game, that encourages users to find all of the sites.  I found this an interesting way to motivate users to continue using the app.  I can think of several augmented reality apps designed for science, and I would like to see more augmented reality apps used to tell history.  There are so many opportunities and use this technology and ways that are affordable, like open-source Aris, a platform to create interactive experiences, like games and tours.  What about an augmented reality/virtual tour through the Valley of the Kings?  No long plane ride to Egypt required!

Categories: Uncategorized | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Where are we?

  1. Thanks for the great post, Alexandra!

    I really enjoyed the way you brought in the potential benefit for archaeology because I think that these GPS mapping apps can be used in so many different ways by many different fields. As this is a history class and most of us are public historians, we tend to zone in on strictly history related subjects and ignore everything else. But as you suggest, archaeology is another form of history and one that could really maximize on this technology. It would be fascinating to see this virtual archaeological tour that you described.


    • Thank you! I cannot leave out archaeology! This could be a possible project in the future…would anyone like to fund me?


  2. Alexandra,
    I appreciated your integration of archaeology. I agree that GPS is a great tactic to use in the creation of mobile apps. As we have learned from the readings place is a powerful concept. So allowing users/site visitors to become intimately acquainted with the physical space that they are learning the history and context of seems essential for full comprehension. I especially agree that these technologies would be appropriate and hugely helpful for archaeology based sites since they are rooted in landscape. Thanks again for your insight!


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