Washington, D.C. has some incredibly cool historic sites; it’s one of the reasons there are over 18 million tourists annually from all over the world. Some of the best historical projects in this city are off the beaten path, and many of them elude even longtime residents. My favorite one, and the one that inspired this digital history project, is Art on Call.
Art on Call is a call box restoration project that took place in the early 2000’s. Many neighborhoods around the city contain abandoned call boxes that were used by police and other emergency services. These were slowly abandoned as radios and cell phones took over our daily lives, and instead of uprooting them they city just left them unmaintained. There were over 1,000 boxes located within the city limits, and the organization Cultural Tourism DC refurbished 145 of them between 2000 and 2009.
Each neighborhood formed committees on how their individual call boxes would look, and then researched/commissioned different artists to carry out their plans. These neighborhoods include Capitol Hill, Cathedral Heights, Cleveland Park, Downtown, Dupont Circle, Forest Hills, Georgetown, Golden Triangle, Glover Park, McLean Gardens, Mount Pleasant, Sheridan/Kalorama, Southwest, Tenleytown, and Woodley Park. Most of them speak to the vibrant history of the surrounding land, with some abstract art projects also thrown in. Each also has a marker indicating why the art was chosen and its relevance, usually on the backside of the call boxes.
Unfortunately, there are no online resources for this project and it has remained dormant since funding was cut in 2009. As I have come across these while out in DC I have continually looked up more information on them, but have found nothing except for sparse websites and a few blog posts. Vox (a liberal online news organization) uploaded a YouTube video describing the project in detail, but still no online resource remains for people who want to see and experience these call boxes virtually.
Here is where I need the help of the class – I am going to pitch three ideas on how to create an online catalogue for this project, and I need to get feedback on which on people feel would be the most accessible for both residents of Washington, D.C. and online history enthusiasts.
My first step is to document as many of the existing 145 call boxes, taking a picture of both the art and the caption describing the context of the box. I will upload the pictures in Wiki Commons so that anyone can have the rights to use them, and then I would like to do one of these three options:
Option 1: Create a Wikipedia page dedicated to this project, linked from the general topic page for Call Boxes. I can create a photographic chart that people can scroll through that will provide them the neighborhoods, the photographs, and a written description of how the box was designed with the physical space in mind.
Option 2: Create a My Map on Google that allows people to see the pictures and a description of each call box through Google Maps on a browser or the app. Someone has done a variation of this, but many pins are missing photographs of the call boxes and none of them explain the historical context of call boxes.
Option 3: Use History Pin to upload and describe all the call boxes for people online and on mobile devices. I am hesitant to use this one because I feel like it is more limited to users – someone walking around DC and googling “random art call boxes” wouldn’t necessarily stumble across it.
This is going to be my final project, so your input would be most appreciated! And I am open to other options, so please feel free to lead me in a different direction if you have a better digital platform in mind.