Have you ever been driving in what seems like the middle of nowhere and passed by a placard, statue, or house that looked important, but did not quite see the historic significance of this place as the car zoomed by? Haven’t you wished that you could quickly look somewhere that would explain to you the significance of that place? For many busy historic roads, there are definitely places where you can find this information. But for the lesser known highways in America, this information is hard to come by. You really are in the middle of nowhere.
For my digital project, I hope to rescue New York’s Route 20–my local, hometown highway– from this oblivion and create an interactive map that denotes and explains the historical significance of certain sites along this route. This site will allow people to engage in the travel and learning experience while driving. Maybe drivers will even stop at some places along the way for a longer gaze, or even visit a local museum that is situated along the route. This site will transform driving along Route 20, which many regard as just driving through cornfield after cornfield, and will rescue this route from historical oblivion.
New York’s Route 20, formerly known as the Cherry Valley Turnpike, is host to a plethora of historical sites, including the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, the William Seward House in Auburn, and the 1848 women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls. Route 20 enthusiasts have set up their own websites about the route, including the Route 20 Association of New York State and an amateur’s site titled “Historic U.S. Route 20: The Main Street of Upstate New York.” These two sites, however, do not offer much historical interpretation, the former more concerned with tourism and the latter lacking scholarly methodology. These sites also do not include an interactive map where drivers can quickly locate sites or where travelers can research the map before they head out on their drive. All in all, the current options on learning more about Route 20 are limited.
I will use Viewshare, Flickr, or Historypin to create an interactive map that marks different sites along the highway. California Route 66 Preservation Foundation runs a website that includes an interactive map. My Route 20 map will link to descriptions of the historical significance of different sites along the road and will display different photos (historical and current) of these sites. For my digital project, I will start with the three historic sites mentioned above: baseball in Cooperstown, William Seward House, and Seneca Falls convention. I will follow Dan Brown’s suggestion, in Communicating Design, and create personas that will guide my design decisions. My website will cater to three different personas: spectators (who just want a quick description of what they are passing), enthusiasts (who can read the whole story on the site), and tourists (who want the full story and might even want to stop and visit the site). I hope to cater to these different personas by using a similar format as Philaplace where the spectators get a few lines on the historical significance, enthusiasts click more to get the whole story, and tourists can scroll down to see recommendations for books to do further research or recommendations for local museums to visit.
Since New York’s Route 20 does not have nearly the renown as Route 66, outreach will be vital to this project. My main audience is interested tourists and so I will link my site to travel review sites, such as TripAdvisor and Yelp. Route 20 already has a page on TripAdvisor. In addition, I will inform local preservation and history organizations, such as the Route 20 Association of New York State and “Tour Auburn,” of my site.
For the evaluation of my project, I will have different users test the site. As Brown emphasizes, planning for usability tests are as important as gaining feedback from the results of these tests. I will create usability tests for someone who is driving the route as well as for someone who is interested in the route and planning to travel the highway in the near future. Hopefully, these people find this site easy to use and easy to understand. More importantly, I hope this site will further interest in the local history of upstate New York. Instead of driving through the middle of nowhere, travelers (and even just web browsers) will gain an appreciation of the rich history of the area and realize its important place in history.