Today 90 percent of the U.S. population has some type of cell phone. Of these, 55 percent, like me, have basic service, but the number of “smart” phone users is growing and is now 45 percent and rising. You probably know that cell phones, especially “smart” ones, can be used for much more than making and receiving phone calls. Someone may have shown you a photo, or a video clip, taken with a phone. It’s commonplace these days to access the internet, including social media, through one’s digital telephone.
I firmly believe that the future of genealogy, and genealogical
societies, lies in people who are familiar with digital
technology. The more information made available in digital
format, the more people are attracted to genealogy. They will
visit society web pages, and investigate the digital offerings of
museums and historical locales.
Cell phone in hand, the public can download audio or video information and tour museums, historic parks and cemeteries, once these places have been equipped with the appropriate technology. These cyber tours can include pictures and video clips, or audio only.
This article is about how these mobile web tours are developed. Building these tours is not difficult but there’s a lot of work involved. The key is organization of the material before involving the digital aspect.Fred CRUGER of the Granite Falls Historical Society begins the story of the digitization of the GFHS by saying that they started in 2003 with an organization problem. The inventory of their holdings showed an abundance of historic photographs. Therefore, Fred organized an effort to digitize them. There was also an abundance of old maps, which were in large format and hard to store. Recruiting local high school students, the GFHS had the maps digitized, and made it possible for different maps to be overlaid. The result was the Snohomish County digital mapping project, which was made available to all the member organizations of the League of Snohomish County Heritage Organizations. Then there was an abundance of old newspapers, which the GFHS also digitized and made searchable.
Having done all this digital organization, the GFHS reached out to the community. The first of its mobile web projects was a self-guided cyber tour of historic Granite Falls, funded by a grant from the League. This tour is available through cell phone, padPC, or smart phone. Apple iphone users can get a free app for the tour at the Apple iStore or download the entire tour using Wifi. The tour has 18 stops, at which the user can compare historic and contemporary photos of sites, play games, answer quizzes and leave feedback about the tour. Call (360) 654-4362 (audio descriptions only) or visit www.myoncell.mobi/13606544362 .
The second project undertaken by GFHS was a self-guided cyber tour of
the Mountain Loop Highway, which is the second largest tourist
attraction in the county and is full of historic places, but much of it
has no cell phone service.
For the Mountain Loop tour the GFHS chose the OnCell company because it allows the smart phone user to download the entire tour before hitting the road. This tour has 35 stops and the traveler can choose the full loop from Granite Falls to Arlington, or a mini-loop in the Jordan Road/Burn Road area. Free apps are available from Apple or the entire tour can be downloaded at the Granite Falls Museum. Go to www.myoncell.mobi/13603553170 or call (360) 355-3170 for audio descriptions only.
This past November, the group Historic Everett went online with a tour of 85 locations on the National Register, the State Register, and the Everett Register of Historic Places, plus a tour of the Hewitt Avenue National Historic District. Historic Everett developed this tour with a grant through county tourism funds. Go to www.myoncell.mobi/4252490212 or call (425) 249-0121 for audio descriptions only.
The City of Snohomish has a cyber tour with 18 stops in the historic
district. Dial (425) 507-0441 for audio only, or visit www.myoncell.mobi/14255070441 .
Aviation buffs can access Snohomish County Aviation Adventures with 14
stops, including the Paine Field/Boeing area, Harvey
Field/Snohomish and the Arlington Airport. Go to
www.myoncell.mobi/14255070442 or dial (425) 507-0442 for audio
For the phone-equipped tourist, the tour begins with arrival at the
location and accessing the web tour for that location (or dialing the
number for audio only). A greeting message will then play, in
which the tourist will be oriented to the location as a whole, and
invited to move on to the first stop on the tour, identified by a
posted sign. Once there, he will press ‘1’ to access the media
for that stop. He may go on to tour the stops in order, or may do
them in any order he chooses. He can watch photos segue
into each other as in a slide show, accompanied by music and
narration; he could even watch video clips or link to
YouTube. He could answer trivia questions, go on a scavenger
hunt, play games, and leave text feedback about how he liked the
tour. Some larger organizations even allow the tourist to connect
to a credit card information page so that he can leave a donation.
What does all this cost? Well, grants would be necessary for small and local societies. The OnCell service plan starts at $1500 for basic audio; their ultimate audio starts at $2640 and standard multimedia, which includes slides and even YouTube clips, starts at $3780. Monthly and seasonal pricing are available. Signage is extra under this plan.
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