Print Project Proposal: Social Media and the C & O Canal

For my Print project, I would like to analyze blogs and forums about the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park. Primarily I would like to focus on what people are saying about the Park, its various sites, its interpretation, its recreational possibilities, etc. I would also like to know what people are saying about the National Park Service in general. I would also like to analyze why people are going to the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park. Are they visiting the Park for purely recreational purposes as hiking, biking, camping, or kayaking? Are they visiting the Park to observe nature? Are they visiting the Park to simply get away from the city? Are they visiting the Park because they are interested in history? If so, what part or aspects of history are people interested in?

I am interested in doing a print project on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park because I am currently working on a group project directly for the Park for the Public History Practicum course for the semester. Doing a print project on the park, not only peaks my interest, but would help me gain a better understanding of the Canal and National Park Service in general and thus would help me to create the best interpretation possible for my group project.

In order to come to an understanding of how people are talking about the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park and National Park Service and why visitors are visiting the Park, I will analyze a variety of social media outlets. Sites from Yelp, Traveladvisor, Yahoo Travel, Flickr, Twitter and Facebook are just some of the social media sites that I will analyze.

There are many different elements to take into consideration when discussing the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park in terms of what people are saying and why visitors visit the Park. For starters, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal stretches 184.5 miles from Georgetown, Washington DC all the way up through Western Maryland. Therefore, there are many different sites along the path, including the visitor center in Great Falls, Maryland. This is a popular hiking and bike path that many visitors take each year. The path along the canal allows visitors to see a vast amount of beautiful nature in the surrounding areas. Also along the path are numerous Lock Houses which used to be inhabited by Lock keepers and their families to control the water flow in the canal. Some of these lock houses have been restored. In fact, six of the historic Lock houses are now a part of what the Park calls the C & O Canal Quarters Project which began in 2008 and continues today. What is unique about this program is that visitors are allowed and encouraged to stay overnight in one of the six historically themed lock houses that are currently open. Another question I would like to pose is why are people staying in these houses? Is it primarily because they are hiking or biking the length of the canal and just need a place to sleep? Are visitors primarily interested in the historic period that the house is covering?

The main point of this project, in addition to seeing how people are talking about the C & O Canal National Historic Park and why they are visiting the Park, is to see how social media is used by people in connection with historic parks. Trevor Owens, in his article “Tripadvisor Rates Einstein,” states that “the social web provides those interested in understanding how the public is interacting with monuments” with an important and unprecedented resource. In an age where digital media is at the center of discussions, it is important to look at how people perceive historic parks through the use of digital media. Furthermore, it is interesting to note that the C & O Canal is not allowed to market itself beyond the use of its website, partnerships, and the occasional flyer. It wasn’t until last week that it started to use the social media site Twitter. In lieu of this fact, this project will hopefully shed some light into how people, social media, and the C & O Canal National Historic Park interact.

3 Replies to “Print Project Proposal: Social Media and the C & O Canal”

  1. Great proposal. I would love to know what people are saying in these sites. I think you have scoped this well too. As far as literature to frame the project you are well situated to take a look at the things I used in the Tripadvisor paper and apply them to your context. So, sounds great to me!

  2. It seems like you’re looking more at the user side of the discussions of the sites, but I think this project also provides an opportunity to view the C&O Canal National Historic Site’s entry into the Twitter-sphere. What exactly will they be using Twitter for? Is Twitter being used by the NHS as just another method of communication, or is it being used in different ways to interact more specifically with the online community? Depending on the kind of information you find, you could tie it back to your ideas by analyzing the relationships between the ‘official’ Twitter presence of the Canal and the users’ versions. Is the official version influenced by the users’ version? Does it take it into account? Is there any interaction at all? Whatever you do end up finding, I think it will be both interesting and informative!

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