In doing the digital history of a place, it is important not to take the place too literally in terms of the geolocation. As Mark Tebeau has suggested, using such an approach will “make a story less accessible intellectually than layering such stories within broader historical contexts where their meaning is clearer and more accessible.”[1] I find this to be the case in my own historical research where I look at development project sites. When these sites are looked at in isolation, tell very little about the problems of development but when they are placed within a larger historical context or trajectory, they provide better insights and understanding.

The presence of digital tools can help enhance the way that we do the history of place even though they have their own challenges. Digital tools can help us crowdsource information, geolocate places, guide people to what they want and how they want it. The challenges are that these digital tools can easily become distractions or may be cumbersome to use when not deployed properly. They are always challenges when you simply crowdsource your information. You may find that you cannot use some of this information. That is the case with many photographs that people uploaded to my project website. Some of them where not even from projects in Africa when the instructions were specific that photos should be of development projects in Africa. To solve this problem, I like the idea of “community sourcing” where there is shared authority. In this approach, “the community is trained in documentary techniques, including oral history collection…”[2]

Geolocation is an important tool in the history of places. One of my favorite features on my google made Nexus phone is “Now on Tap.” This is a geolocation tool that actually tells you about things that are nearby and may be of interest to you. Most times when I visit places for the first time, I find myself doing things I did not even know existed, thanks to Google. This technology can be deployed within a museum. Often when I visit a museum, I just keep walking through the exhibits and most times I end up missing shows that I wanted to see because I was not constantly looking at my clock. Using geolocation technologies, “visitors can also be easily sent a simple push notification if they’re near an area where a live demo or tour is beginning.”[3]

The approach taken by the Melbourne Museum in their design of World War One: Love and Sorrow exhibit, is one that I find very helpful. Having the mobile app that helps you in exploring the museum before you arrive and after you leave is useful.[4] I often find myself everywhere on Google trying to find out more about certain items that I saw at the museum. Also having a layer of information that complements what is in the gallery helps prevent unnecessary distractions. Too much text round the exhibits is distracting to me. I want as little text as possible. If it is an item that I want to learn more about, having an app that allows me to read up more on my phone or to tag it to explore more later is more helpful to me.

In thinking about my project, this material has given me some ideas on how to present information. For my project, I need to focus on “people (famous and little-known), places (existing and past structures), and events (nationally – and locally – important) as visible categories for users to browse…”[5] I also need to make my website mobile friendly and not overload people with too much information as their attention span is only about five seconds.

[1] Mark Tebeau, “Listening to the City: Oral History and Place in the Digital Era,” The Oral History Review 40,1(2013): 30

[2] Ibid, 30.

[3]  Brad Baer, Emily Fry, and Daniel Davis, “Beyond the Screen: Creating interactives that are location, time, preference, and skill responsive.” MW2014: Museums and the Web 2014. Published February 1, 2014.

[4] Hart, T. and Brownbill, J. “World War One: Love and Sorrow – A hybrid exhibition mobile experience.” In Museums and the Web Asia 2014, N. Proctor & R. Cherry (eds). Silver Spring, MD: Museums and the Web. Published September 19, 2014.

[5] Brennan, Sheila and Sharon Leon. “Building Histories of the National Mall: A Guide to Creating a Digital Public History Project.” Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media. October 2015. 17.