A few weeks ago, I had lunch ever with my friend from the Historical Society. We had a chance to catch up, and got to exchange some Ideas. I shared with her the walking tour ideas I mentioned previously, and she really liked the idea, but thinks it might be better to apply with a different exhibit, as the current one is about to close. More than the idea of an augmented walking tour, she seemed to like the idea of a walking museum. I think this is awesome, and today I want to expand on this notion, because it opens lots of doors and possibilities.
For an organization like the Historical Society, I think this idea applies especially well. Unlike any of the other museums here, it is focused on Milwaukee’s history, and this provides an amazing opportunity. The whole of Milwaukee is an appropriate context for them to share and display information. The Historical Society’s building might be a place to house an office, and historic documents, but the whole city is a wonderful opportunity to share the City’s history.
Allow me to expound upon this notion. There are tools we can employ to engage people with Milwaukee history, without them having to come into the historical center. Since history is all around the city, why not bring the displays to the streets. There are a number of ways of accomplishing this. You can do walking tours like the one mentioned in my earlier posts, you could even set up plaques and kiosks on the street. These are all cool, but what about engaging people on a more significant level. What if we could bring elements of the past to us today in a meaningful way, and what if we could further share this experience with each other? This notion has several consequences, one of the most significant is that it builds historic significance for the residents of Milwaukee. This is Milwaukee history for Milwaukeeans.
Ok, so I’m still being kind of abstract. Let’s bring this down to street level. A few days ago while indulging my TED addiction, I came across a talk about augmented reality and the application of this concept to current technology. The presenter demonstrated this intriguing technology through an app his company had developed. The app is called Aurasma, and it has been around for a little over a year. Me, being the nerd that I am, downloaded the app about 2 minutes into the talk, and positively geeked out in a severe fashion. This app superimposes information stored on the internet onto images in front of your phone’s camera. This came fairly close to melting my mind, opened a bunch of creative doors in my head.
We’re going to make a jump without a segway back to my lunch with my friend. On the way back from lunch, we took a route that went past the riverwalk, and a connection happened in my head. What if we did a route along the river walk with stops along the way. If we partnered with Aurasma, we could create a walkway that was tagged and would enable people strolling along the riverwalk, and use this app to see how the space used to look, with images from the historical society. This would be ridiculously cool for several reasons. It provides a multimodal way of engaging people. The maintenance cost of this would be minimal, as there is really no display to be stolen, or graffiti’d. No one needs to get permission or pay a fee to use it, and it is accessable to anyone with a smartphone. Additionally it’s a way to get people individually engaged with the history, and it uses everyday technology to bridge the gap with the past. In addition, this is something that local residents can enjoy and experience everyday. When you add to this, integration with social media applications, what you start to do is create a communal experience, as people try this out ad share their interactions. Better yet, you have residents creating a social history, and they don’t even need someone on hand to curate it.
Now, this sounds all well and amazing, but how to make this happen? I think that this can be done on a narrow budget, if there could be an arrangement made. If the historical society partnered with this company, and gave them exclusivity to it, there could be a mutual benefit. Milwaukee gets a cool display, the society gets direct support from the company, and the company gets an amazing marketing tool, as well as all the downloads in the area. If people get exposed to the app at this display, then they can start using it and creating their own recordings in other parts of the city, and the application grows.
Anyhow, that’s all I’ve got for now. I’ll link the TED talk in a little bit.