Grandma Gusty

img_1530In thinking about what(or whom) I wanted to make a story about using the video-making tools on UMN’s Immigrant Stories website, I decided to focus on Augusta Henschel Schoenherr, my great-great grandmother. While most of my family arrived in America before the Constitution was signed, one branch of my family includes German immigrants that arrived between the 1850s and 1870s. Augusta, or “Gusty” as she was known, is the only immigrant ancestor that I have a photo of, which makes her more real to me than ancestors from 400 years ago. I had a special relationship with her daughter, my great-grandmother Mae (Elizabeth “Lizzie” May), despite the fact that I was one of roughly 200 great-grandchildren. She grew up with Gusty as a mother, and German-born Julius Schoenherr as her father, living in a sod house as homesteaders in ND, speaking and reading German in the home.

That being said, I don’t have actual memories of her, just what I know from family stories and original documents.I tried to use the templates provided on the website but I felt like none or the categories were pertinent to me in that I didn’t necessarily have answers to the questions they asked about her. So instead I just typed my own. I wasn’t quite sure what the text box was for-that could’ve been made more clear. Was it the final script? Just thoughts? Later it all made sense, but at the time it was confusing.

When I was redirected to the video-making website, I didn’t understand that you had to get a separate log-in. When I tried to create an account I apparently already had an account (?) which caused confusion. I watched the tutorial video on the Immigrant Stories website about editing the sound before I started. I don’t have a microphone, and even with every machine off in my house and talking loudly and closely, the audio is barely discernible. After a little practice I was able to edit out my mistakes, or which there were plenty. I did not get too elaborate but liked that there was the ability to use audio tracks or sound effects. While it took me awhile to figure out where to upload images and how to get them into the video or lengthen them, eventually it made sense.


I took a break to have dinner and came back to work, and had to sign in again. After I was logged in I no longer saw my edited audio but rather the error filled original version. And none of my images I added were showing up. I ended up re-editing all of my work and adding images again which was time-consuming.


I exited the screen and came upon another screen where it showed I had started numerous projects.


I’m unsure how I did that (although it’s totally my M.O. to end up on weird screens or think I’ve lost all of my work). I had lost so much time by the time I realized my mistake and my double work, that I didn’t quite finish the video. It’s missing a credits screen, and I could’ve made better use of the functions of the tool, but I still think I got a good idea of the site’s functionality and user-friendliness. For how little I accomplished in such a long period of time, I am unsure if other users would stick with it, especially those with little English, no computer skills or limited internet access.

While all of the bells and whistles (fancy fades, sound effects) are neat, I think it makes it appear too confusing. I almost wish there were less options. After the learning curve though it became much easier. I definitely see myself using this tool again to make videos. I’d like to make a video for my race riot archive to tell the condensed history of the summer and featured the images in the collection without overwhelming the reader with text. I think that it is a great tool to have in your tool belt as a historian in the digital age.

So keep in mind that: 1. I’m without a microphone and 2. It still needs some work, but it resembles an actual video, so mission accomplished?


Same, same but different

My grandmother Jeri was active in the Minneapolis civil rights and women’s rights scene in the 1960s and 1970s and was among the first to work with incoming immigrants from Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and other Asian and East Asian countries. She worked primarily with women and gave them the skills she thought they needed in America: how to drive, how to do math and balance a checkbook, and how to find the resources they needed in the city. She owned apartment buildings throughout Minneapolis and was one of the only people initially who would rent to immigrants. My grandma became a part of their community and was always at someone’s wedding or birthday. Even all of my own family’s photos from the 1970s and 1980s include Hmong or Vietnamese friends and neighbors at baby showers and picnics.

When I received boxes of my grandmothers photos after her death, it included a variety of photos of immigrants she formed relationships with, like this unknown family that whose wedding she was invited to.

Minneapolis has a long history of supporting immigrant populations, and the digital narratives featured on Immigrant Stories highlight the diverse factors that brought the immigrants to America and how each reflected on their memories of home. The stories that succeeded in highlighting the immigrant experience used a combination of sound, narrative and images working together. Watching a video of someone speaking about their grandmother is far less sentimental than listening to them speak while images of grandma pass by on the screen. It allows viewers to personally connect to the story and imagine their own grandmother.

There were quite a few stories featured on the site that balanced audio, visual and sound well to evoke their home country or their immigrant experience. Justin Schell, when talking about his grandmother, featured flashes of images that were HIS childhood memories of her: a bowl of spaghetti, a fresh mowed lawn, a bowl of M+Ms on her table, and the one old photo he had seen of her in Italy. You never actually see Justin, the assumed narrator. The narration is personal though, and is paired with family photos, naturalization records and other documents that Schell has collected in his own research as an adult about his grandmother. In a way, he was discovering her life through these pieces of paper, as she had long ago passed. As this is the way I create stories about many of my ancestors as a genealogist, I was drawn to this story. Even when the digital story creator had no personal photos to pair with a portion of the narration, he still tried to find old photos in collections elsewhere that related to the story, like images of the town Lackawanna where they settled in the US. He also incorporates sound, both in music to evoke her homeland of Italy, as well as an actual audio recording that she made for her husband while he was in the war.

Shue-Qa Moua, the daughter of Hmong immigrants, used music and images to evoke her parent’s experience. Her digital story opens with Laotian music and photos. The music fades into the background as the narration begins so that it doesn’t compete with the story. In addition to family photos, like Justin Schell she uses government documents and immigration records, as well as photos that depict the history of their homeland that are not part of the family’s personal photos.

0a79927790cb524039c05ac0d45860e5Many others used this combination of image and sound in unique yet complimentary ways that brought to life the dual worlds of immigrants. Chiyoko Toguchi Swartz, when immigrating to America from Japan to marry her soldier husband, brought very few personal items. While the other stories I mention feature relatives learning about their immigrant through documents and photos, the featured items in this digital story were ways that Chiyoko remained connected to her home. Newly married and starting a family, one of the only items she brought to the US was a Japanese parenting and family medical reference book, Katei Igaku Zensho. This book was a source of comfort and support and knowledge for a new immigrant mother who didn’t have the network of support of her family and friends to help her in her first years as a mother. Like other stories, traditional Japanese music is used to evoke her homeland. This story also uses sound to bring to life history. At :35-:40 the sound of airplanes in a war scene are heard when talking about her time during World War II. Mothers worldwide could sympathize with this new mother’s fear.

Some stories miss visual opportunities. I found this especially true in the case of two stories about local Minneapolis restaurant owners who immigrated to America. As food is one of the best ways in which people remain connected to their heritage from generation to generation, the lack of images of food in these stories is disappointing. For instance, Abdirahman, the owner of Afro deli, only features food for a few seconds at 1:55. The audio and visual primarily features an almost static interview with him against a plain background, with a few photos of the restaurant itself and the menu. He also mentioned food as a way for the immigrant community to connect, and that he was an activist in the community, yet there were no images of the community either. Sound was no utilized other than his dialogue. Viewers have no sense of where he came from, what he went through, or how he is connected to his current local community. His menu represents various African cultures in Minneapolis and could’ve been featured to connect to the local community.

A Yelp user uploaded this photo to Afro Deli’s Yelp page of one of their dished called Keke. More than anything, food is a channel to find similarities between cultures. Going by the menu description, keke is similar to many eastern european goulash-esque dishes, or perhaps could even be compared to chilaquiles or lasagna even. 

Kunrath Lam’s story too misses opportunities to connect food with culture, or to connect images to highlight the atrocities that her family was fleeing from in Cambodia. For nearly 10 minutes of fascinating stories about her family, the war, escaping through the jungle, there are no images, just her talking about the killings and torture and starvation, with the static view of her seated at her restaurant. Viewers could not connect emotionally to the circumstances that drive many immigrants from their homes.Later, after the 10-minute mark, she talks about how hard it was as a new immigrant to describe the Cambodian food of her restaurant to people, who had never had Cambodian food before. Like Abdirahman’s story, this is a missed opportunity as there is almost no food featured. In the last 2 minutes of the video images of later trips she took to Cambodia to build schools are included, and articles about those schools, but the sense of place of Cambodia is not brought to life.

Nasser Mussa did a great job highlighting his confusion coming to America in being labeled black and Muslim, two things that he always was, but that had never defined him. He uses text across the screen to highlight his confusion/coming to terms with these American labels. More than many, his use of music had the opportunity to bring his story to life and he failed. He chose hip-hop, which in itself is a great choice to highlight this young man’s questioning of labels. Yet the volume was too high which made both the lyrics and the dialogue underneath almost useless, fighting against each other with no one winning. Was the song about the topic? I have no idea. There was no pause in the dialogue to stop this auditory fight. Perhaps letting the music and images speak for themselves for even 10 seconds would’ve helped. During the credits, the perfect place for the song to just play (and be heard), the music instead ends abruptly and the video finishes in silence.

As a whole, the stories highlighted a variety of experiences that brought people to America, from love to war. They did a great job of showing the dual world that immigrants live in, and especially that the children of immigrants live in. For instance, Mohamed Boujnah, when talking about his difficulty reading maps and navigating around Minneapolis, used back and forth comparisons between his life in Tunisia and his life here (an image of him driving in Tunis, with an image of him confusedly talking to a bus driver in the US).

The stories are varied enough that they allowed for both other immigrants to see themselves in these stories, as well as for Americans whose families perhaps arrived generations ago, to find personal, emotional connections to these stories through the sentimentality of food, music and images of family. Renita Sebastin’s mother’s wedding saree that she brought with to America might remind viewers of their own grandmother’s wedding dress, passed down. Many of the best digital stories featured something tangible to attach the story to. As a site for public history, the combined stories offer a window into the immigrant experience that highlights both the unique diffences in the histories and cultures of these places, as well as the shared stories of family and determination that permeate throughout.

Areas of Thailand, Cambodia and Laos have variations of a saying that translates to “same, same but different”. I feel like that concept is what Immigrant Stories helped convey.

I was told by a friend who studies material culture that my house is “an Americanist wet dream.” This is not the first I’ve heard of this.  Many moons ago I had all male roommates who used to joke that my section of our loft looked like a TGIFridays. To say I find value in the original and analog would be an understatement. I’m drowning in books. I’m the keeper of thousands of family photos. I play vinyl records far more often then I’ll scroll through my iTunes or pop on Pandora.

My favorite place on Earth, my Disneyland if you will, is called the Museum of Fond Memories, also known as Jim Reed Books, in Birmingham, Alabama. I get giddy even thinking about it. It is floor to ceiling STUFF. Books, magazines, barbie dolls, Christmas lights, postcards, lawn ornaments, happy meal figurines. While the books are somewhat organized by theme, the rest is just piles to dig through. Rooms lead into more rooms. Old mailboxes open and are filled with love letters and postcards. Boxes almost invite you to dig through them. Everything is haggled for like at a garage sale. The physicality of objects inspires memories and a connection to an object in a way that 1’s and 0’s and metadata fields cannot do justice to. The store truly is a museum of memories. As Andrea Whitcomb puts it, “the material world carries weight-aura, evidence, the passage of time.”

We hold items as being intrinsically valuable if they are unique–physically, aesthetically, topically. In a store (museum?) like Jim Reed’s, it’s hard to blink without coming across something of historical interest or importance. Yet is it all valuable enough to preserve for the future? Is there value beyond the individual object into the collective group of objects? Does this value change as new items come in or are sold? My favorite thing about going there is the sense of discovery, over and over and over, that I get to experience as I round corners, move mannequins aside or open old cabinets.  My favorite museums are designed much in that same way-tactile. I love the sensory experience at Jim Reed’s. Turning on a Teddy Ruxpin and hearing the voice, feeling the slippery pages of an old encyclopedia set, smelling the mildew of old comic books.

My last trip there I bought an antique travel journal filled with news clippings, postcards and brochures of a teen girl’s trip through the American West in the 1930s. I love flipping through the pages, opening the brochures, watching her thought process of how she arranged everything. Tucked inside in an envelope that fell out after I bought it were letters and forms for the parents of trip-goers, and a separate flip book of photos from the 1990s of an old woman. From these physical items I’ve been able to learn all about this woman, Florence Gaskin. The scrapbook alone would have only given me her first name. It was the combination of physical items that gave me the whole story. Even in posting photos of these physical things I’m writing about seems to be going against what I’m saying-they cannot convey the value in a way that the physical object can.

Every time I’m in the Museum of Fond Memories, I wonder where he got this stuff. I assume house auctions and the like? Was this scrapbook just in a box of items he got out of a storage locker? Or did family members maybe scan it and get rid of the physical copy?

I ended up doing research on women’s travel during this time period, and used another woman’s travel scrapbook from the same time period, the 1930s, that was housed in UNC’s collections. It was only available to look at digitally. While I see the value in making a digital surrogate to protect the original, there is a value that is lost in the digitization.

Maude Bunn’s digital scrapbook:

I have since collected additional travel scrapbooks from periods throughout history. Some are crumbling at the lightest touch and leave flakes of paper in their path. A Vietnam Vet’s album from his wartime and later travels has lost all of its adhesive and thus some of its original order.  In order to be able to work with them in the future and do research, I’ll likely have to digitize them to capture some part of the original that can’r remain.

Many people think that digital information needs to be held to a higher standard of authenticity and integrity. If a finding aid or the metadata about something says that it has X number of pages and was written in 1878, I generally trust that to be true. While notions of ownership are perhaps not a huge concern in this case, there is a chance it could be an issue if maybe the owner of a site with a brochure featured in the scrapbook might claim ownership, or a Gaskin relative. Concerns about reproduction aren’t as valid in this case though, as something like a scrapbook is inherently unique and understood to be one-of-a-kind.

I don’t think digital and analog version can be looked at comparatively because they offer archivists and the public different benefits. I think that, prioritizing of course, almost any item is worth of scanning and saving for the future, even if just as a digital surrogate. The effort now to scan something might later be the only record that that item ever existed. But will it be better or offer something the original item cannot? Beyond access and longevity, I’m not sure it can.

D!rty word5

Even using somewhat recent text, Optical Character Recognition (OCR) has it’s issues. I have very little OCR experience, but much of my time with Open Durham was spent copying text from pdfs of HAER records and National Register applications from the 1970s-1990s about historic homes. We always had issues with the word story (which appears in every single house post) showing up as “s!ory”. I bet I’ve had to manually omit that damn exclamation point at least 500 times. Houses that were 1 and 1/2 stories turned into a jumbled mess. Having spent a lot of time reading old cursive, I knew going into this assignment that the ‘long s’ would prove difficult. And I know that old traditional fonts were likely harder for a computer to decipher.

In choosing a piece of text to analyze, I had a very difficult time finding one whose plain text was enough to even go on. I had started with a late 1800s guide to communist societies in the United States written by a man who had visited them all and interviewed the members. That late in the century though, the long s/f was gone and the plain text, with only a few exceptions, was quite accurate. I needed to find something older, otherwise this would’ve been a very short post.

screen-shot-2016-11-01-at-4-30-18-pmI have done a lot of research on race riots, resistance and labor riots, so I sought out an older book on the topic of riots. I found An Appeal to the Public, on the Subject of the Riots in Birmingham, written after the Birmingham riots of 1791 in England. Even deciphering the name of the author, Joseph Priestley, proved difficult. If I were trying to analyze this text and look at the ways in which riots were written about in different time periods and contexts, it wouldn’t be beneficial to use the plain text for this book as there is so little to go by. Only roughly half of the text was actually “translated”, with huge chunks marked for OCR errors. I imagine even earlier books about riots would be of little to no use to use OCR on. Google Books was limiting the amount of text I could look at plain text of too, which further constrained the amount of text to analyze against each other.

In addition to the long s, the combining of “ct” together makes the text hard to read for an OCR program.


Entire sections would show up with the letters of words positioned like exponential powers or citation numbers.


When using this sporadic plain text in Voyant, the four most common words that appeared were church, clergy, errors and OCR. The amount of errors are such that their mention in the plain text turns up as a most used word or phrase. Keep in mind that this was only a short 8 page section that Google allowed, but yet the word cloud showed some interesting other words pop up like behave, hope, committed, inferior, riots, government, dissenters and bigotry. Also on the list though are cannqt, ct, asld and bir.


Google Ngram also showed some interesting trends as related to writing about riots. I combined riots with a variety of words including race, lynching, communism, activism, NAACP, KKK. Going by those search items, I thought that the time period of 1800-1950 would be most beneficial to look at. Race is always such a hard word to use in a search because of its various meanings, so I quickly omitted that search. No one really wrote about the KKK or the NAACP until mid century, which I suppose is something. Also of note is that the word activism doesn’t show up until around the turn of the century.  The comparison that I found most interesting though was this one below showing the comparison between unions, communism and riots. Riots were written about on a consistent (albeit small) basis over that same time period. Communism was written about very little before the 1930s. You can almost see the slight tic up around WWI and the Bolshevik Revolution and Red Scare, but it’s insignificant. Unions however have seen a massive increase in the amount written about the topic, starting around the labor movement in the late 1800s, with a fall right after the war.

Comm Unions Riots Ngram 1800-1950.png

When I went to compare those same terms in Hathitrust I used a longer time period


This view shows overall similar trends but perhaps highlight better short periods of interest in subjects–you can visualize the ups and downs better and see the fluctuations of interest in a way that was not evident in Ngram. Are these mini tableaus in the 1800s in the communism line related perhaps to biblical communism? Are the decreases in writing about unions related to the general economy at the time it was written? These hills of green that denote the mention of riots in the 1750s-1760s, and again around 1805-1810, might also be worth exploring deeper, even if perhaps not related to race (I’m assuming, perhaps I’m wrong).

I’ve used word cloud tools a bit for the race riot archive I created. I was interested in the words used in headlines written about the race riots of 1919. This was not built using OCR though but rather I copied and pasted the text from a spreadsheet I created that had a field for headlines. Beyondthe headlines though I see countless opportunities for text analysis  that could provide some interesting insight into the riots as well as the following investigations and trials. I’ve collected over 700 documents related to the riots including court records, newspaper articles, telegrams and coroner’s reports. I haven’t gone down that path because I only have jpgs of the items and am really unsure how to use OCR. And my research and archive are all of items that are hovering a fine copyright and use line. But in a series of over three dozen race riots and lynching in the US in such a short period of time, the newspapers, and the words they used, played an important role in heightening America’s fears and prejudices and instigating violence in some occasions. To be able to analyze the text to better prove that point would be amazing. Text analysis would also be useful when looking at letters and documents of government officials that are in my collection to compare how they reacted (or wrote about) the riots as compared to more recent writings about, say, Ferguson. Words are powerful and tools like those explored this week have the potential to better show just how powerful. (As long as the text was written after the 1860s and thus with limited problematic characters, but before 1923).

Words that appeared in headlines about the riots of 1919 from a word cloud I made last year.


Eleanor, is that you?

The Museum of Surgical Science in Chicago recently started using a new app called Encurate, which is meant to give users a more personalized, in depth museum experience. I had mixed feelings about Encurate going into it. Would it enhance my experience or detract from it? Would I become annoyed? Would the notifications be information I could easily ascertain on my own? Would I still be left with questions that Encurate’s push notifications or the museum’s exhibit labels couldn’t solve? How seamless will the connection be between the real world and the augmentation?

I wish I could say that Encurate lives up to its tagline of “custom mobile experiences that highlight your space without distracting from it?” While I could imagine the potentiality of the technology with some editing, in its current form I feel like it distracted from my experience and left me with as many questions as it answered. It didn’t seem to be working correctly for me. It not only inundated me with information I didn’t want many locations, but it made it hard for me to access the information I did want in others. Sometimes, without moving, numerous notifications would pop up and almost immediately disappear to be replaced with something else. There was no way for me to get back to those notifications. I walked in circles trying to get them to pop up again and gave up, only to have them pop up again in another room.

There were a few notifications that I was sent again and again from various locations not related to the notification. While in an area dedicated to Andreas Vesalius I received a notification for “Radiation for Hair Removal”. This alert was sent to me at least 4-5 different times in different locations and rooms like my phone was possessed.



On the third floor I didn’t get an alert at the top of the stairs about anything, so I went to the unmarked room to the right. Again I wanted information while standing RIGHT next to an object (paper mache fetus models)that I was not given until I was in the hallway again. In the alert, it instructed me to go to the Obstetrics Room , yet from the hallway, none of the doorway openings make it obvious which direction that was. Having already been through that room I knew, but often there was a lack of directional instructions. Sometimes something would be described as east or south, which is only helpful to those not directionally challenged. Once I get off of the street and wandering around a museum I lose all sense of direction. Perhaps when suggestions of nearby things pop up there could be arrows included? For instance, in the middle of this hallway I get this alert below. This Clyster image has piqued my interest but I can’t tell where it is in relation to me. Its definitely not in the hallway.



In the fourth floor landing I received my third notification about imported limestone and an alert about a series of letters(which, again, were nowhere visible from where I was standing). What I REALLY wanted to know was more about some skulls in the case in the landing with holes drilled through them. In the Spinal Surgery Room and the Orthopedics Room I received identical alerts, over and over like it was possessed, about a bone saw and a wheelchair, despite changing rooms. The other visitor browsing that room at the same time kept on shooting me the evil eye because my phone was buzzing so much.  In the Artists-in-Residence Room I got the alert that I had hoped to get on the landing about the skulls. In talking to other visitors, it seemed that that accuracy did indeed vary, but not as badly as it was varying from my phone.



Other times, even when a correct alert went off, I wished that the alert told me more. This was especially true of the architecture. In a popup about the fireplace it mentions elaborate details throughout the house but gives no specifics, like the story behind this ram’s head design. It offers no valuable information to the visitor. There were at least 4 equally interesting fireplaces for which I received no alerts. Between the multiple fireplaces, variety of crown moulding, original windows and doors, antique tile in the bathrooms and ornate staircases, there were very few architecture related alerts (yes, I realize it’s a medical museum).


Consistency seemed to be an issue. Some areas had a lot of information, other pop-ups offered nothing the visitor couldn’t have figured out himself. The museum did make use of the app’s marketing capabilities with a quick mention of an upcoming event attached to an alert.Yet in an empty area marked “New Exhibit Coming Soon”visitors could get a teaser alert about the new exhibit. Or, in the halls of portraits or statues of the greats in medicine, visitors could get better acquainted with these women and men.  And I think they could’ve tapped into an additional design (Look! Pretty!) demographic by focusing on some of the beautiful designs of medical related things like these ornate cases in the optometry section or the sleek design of certain tools.


Overall, when the app was working properly I thought it was ok, but this was the exception. Between the incessant buzzing for alerts about things not in the room I was in, and alerts disappearing if I moved an inch, it was more distracting than helpful. A comparison that I keep thinking about is when you’re driving and using Google Maps and something is slightly off. It’s telling you to exit. There is no exit. Or it doesn’t understand you need to detour. Make a U-turn. Make a U-turn. Make a U-turn. Until it gets its kinks worked out, Encurate reminds me of that- this thing that is supposed to be helpful that you end up muttering and cursing at as it buzzes and sends you alerts you don’t need. I love the IDEA of this app though and look forward to seeing what it is capable of after a little more Beta testing and tweaking. I feel like I had an atypical experience. Perhaps the ghost of Eleanor is the reason I’m getting alerts about death masks in a room full of paintings?


The possibilities of augmented reality

Augmented reality (AR) is a view of the real-world environment with elements that are augmented or layered over it, which could be pictures, sound, text or any number of digital additions. Some people call it “mediated reality,” which I like a little better. I think of it as Reality+. The best current example of AR is Pokémon Go, which layers an alternate world on top of the real world. Like in Pokemon Go, location is a major component in much of AR, having a place to attach the information, photo, or sound clip to.

Augmented reality often gets confused with virtual reality, which has the aim of recreating the real world in a digital realm. In their 2016 report, the Center for the Future of Museums classifies augmented and virtual realities as both the ‘promise and peril’ for museums in the near future. While I find many science and natural history and art museums using augmented reality, I didn’t find many instances of AR being used in history museums. The Natural History Museum, for instance, uses a skin and bone app that adds flesh to items in their collection, as seen below.


In The New Digital Storytelling, Bryan Alexander explains AR as being a spectrum of augmentation. At one side are simple (what he calls “Light AR”) geolocated photos or memories, like Open Durham that I talked about in a recent post, or the Hurricane Digital Memory Bank, mentioned by the author (164). These have bits of information or images attached to real places digitally. In the middle are simple superimposed visualizations, like an old map layered over Google maps. At the far end are full on visualizations imposed on the real world, like Pokemon Go.

Potentiality aside, getting people to USE the technology is another story. For a few walking tours I created in Durham we attached QR codes, a form of AR, to either the physical tour location hanging from a tree or fence, or on the brochure itself as a way of fitting in more information or photos that could fit on a small brochure. For both, we never had more than 4 or 5 people ever use the function. Yet, recently in the news I heard of a library in Europe that was using technology similar to Pokemon Go to hide books for people to search for, with astounding numbers of participants (Catch ‘em all! ) So, obviously, there is interest.But will it die out as Pokémon Go loses it’s appeal?

Another issue is how to make history engaging and, to an extent, game like or curiosity inducing, while retaining historical integrity. If used as a form of storytelling, how does AR allow history to come to life in stories? As Alexander asks in his first chapter, how does being digital, or in this case specifically being an augmented reality, enable new aspects of storytelling (14)?  I see the potentiality in my mind but haven’t encountered many instances in real life yet, although I’m sure they must exist. I could see AR being used like Pokémon Go to take visitors throughout a historic town to interact with different characters or people throughout history, much as Alexander imagines in Chapter 11.

I wanted to revisit History Pin. I had used it in the past but was disappointed with the lack of material/photos in many areas at the time, which was in its early test stages. I was surprised to hear that the app had partnered with the National Archives to add images. When I had visited in its Beta stages, the site seemed to be focused on buildings rather than stories. The focus has definitely changed. I was pleasantly surprised to see, in addition to a fuller stocked selection of old photos to overlay over the “real”, the site also prominently featured what appeared to be curated stories or collections.

I’m a World’s Fair junkie, so I examined specifically how History Pin was used to tell the story of the San Francisco World’s Fair. While there were thousands of photos uploaded to this group and pinned on a map, the associated information was often lacking or missing all together. Most images were uploaded by the public who had little information on the images. The same was true for many subjects that I searched. The visual component was there, and the ability to see what the past looked like in comparison to the present, but the information was primarily visual. There were little stories or context or tension created to go along with the pinned images.



There seemed to be many projects in the works, and many new apps and tools that promised support for institutions that wanted to get into AR and VR, but little consensus on any one company that seemed to be getting it right. Google is constantly experimenting with things like their Google Glass that alter the real world with overlaid data or images. Yet in the present, most AR seems to be location based photo based technology and did not dive too deeply into augmented reality. It seems on the horizon though.

After thought:

In a different class yesterday someone brought up the augmented reality lunch counter experience at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. This was new information to me and hadn’t showed up in my earlier searches. Users experience the sounds and physical abuse of the sit-in protestors as they sit on the stools with headphones on. I think that this is a superb way or telling a complex history using augmented reality and would’ve focused my blog on it if I knew about it earlier or had more time.