If you travel to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, you will find yourself in a city that treasures its historical identity. It is the location of the northernmost battle of the American Civil War, as well as the site of Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address. Those looking to tour the battlefield, and the rest of the town for that matter, have any number of options available to them. However, of these tours, there are very few that are available for free besides the tour provided by the National Parks Service, and those that do exist online are either hard to find or incomplete. My planned digital project involves the creation of an online tour of the Battle of Gettysburg and some of the aftereffects & commemoration in Gettysburg on HistoryPin. By creating this tour, I believe that I can give people a free, non-government organized option that is accessible from a cell phone with an internet connection from the perspective of someone who has studied history.
With this project, I intend to target people looking to tour Gettysburg for the first time, those seeking an alternative to the National Parks Service tour and other paid tours, and perhaps most importantly, those with access to mobile devices with internet access. I would also like to try to make this accessible to everyone regardless of age or level of education, yet still make it informative for everyone who might be interested in this tour. Other tours today, as I’ve mentioned, are either government constructed (meaning a potentially skewed narrative is presented), private and paid (making it costly and unclear of the merits of the tour beyond Yelp reviews), or incomplete (as can be seen in almost every HistoryPin tour regarding Gettysburg). I believe that my project fills a definite hole in the marketplace that would benefit everyone.
Here’s where this gets a little tricky- the specifics of the project itself. I will begin my project by presenting an introduction page for my tour where I will provide an explanation of the tour, how it works, and a brief description of my credentials as justification for people to feel more secure in their choice of tour. I want to include at least twenty to twenty-five pins on HistoryPin directly reflecting the location of specific locations related to Gettysburg battlefield. Included in these sites are historic sites/sites where significant events occurred during the battle, the locations of major memorials, and the sites of significant moments that occurred after the battle that were still related to it. Along with each pin I intend to provide a picture, either historical or from present-day, and a brief statement regarding the historical significance and justification for the site’s inclusion in the tour based on research that I will conduct. While I am presently unsure of the sites that I will use in my tour, possibilities that I have considered include, but are not limited to: McPherson Ridge, Little Round Top, The Peach Orchard, The High Water Mark, the Monument to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, Devil’s Den, Lee’s Headquarters, Meade’s Headquarters, and various state, army, and regiment memorials. (Unclear about what these sites are? Take the tour once I post it!)
In order to get the word out on this project, I intend to do a ground-level campaign to promote this on a more individual basis and then rely upon word-of-mouth. I want to attach the link of my tour to a QR code, then put both the link and the code on fliers and post them across Gettysburg, including in significant locations like the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center, the Gettysburg Heritage Center Museum, and the Jennie Wade House. Then I hope to have this tour included in several review sites and possibly make a Facebook page dedicated to the tour that might provide web hits while searching for “Gettysburg Tours” online.
In terms of evaluation of my project, I will rely on the kindness of strangers to provide feedback while also conducting a few observations in the field myself after the project’s completion. HistoryPin has a feature that shows how many views a tour has and how many people have commented on it. I will rely on this to see how many views my project has, as well as searching online reviews and Facebook to see if people are discussing it & in what way it is discussed. At certain intervals (to be determined) after posting my tour and my promotional fliers I will visit Gettysburg National Military Park and see if there are people using their phones for tours rather than following a tour guide and conducting brief field interviews to gauge if they are using my tour and if it is successful.
I think this is what my final project is going to be, so please please PLEASE be critical of this- I want to make sure this is as successful and polished as possible. Thanks in advance!
2 Replies to “Digital Project Proposal- The Historian’s Tour of Gettysburg”
Have you looked into the Civil War Trust’s Battle Apps at all for potential inspiration or comparison? They’ve got a whole series of GPS-based mobile app tours of battlefields, which you can find here: https://www.civilwar.org/visit/mobile-apps
I don’t know much about their Gettysburg tour specifically, but I worked on the Brandy Station app quite a bit when I was an intern there, so I’m happy to share what I know about how they develop the tour content if that’s at all helpful!
Producing an alternative tour at Gettysberg via HistoryPin is a really neat idea. In particular, I like your focus on thinking through an on the ground way to get the word out about your tour. For something like this to be successful it’s critical to focus on outreach and engagement and given that this is a place based experience it makes a lot of sense to anchor your outreach in the place itself.
I think my main comment on this is that given the range of issues or topics you could cover in such a tour I think it’s going to be best for you to focus in on some specific point of view or perspective to bring to your tour. That is, given the depth and range of the history in the space I think it will be really ideal to come up with a specific take and to work through that. For instance, focusing on the history of the battlefield after the war could be an engaging way to explore the meaning of the site to people over time.
Whatever way you end up framing the history of the site, I think another key thing to focus on is identifying visual primary source material that you can incorporate into the tour. I would hazard to guess that there is a fair amount of historical photography of the site and finding creative ways to use that content in the context of being in the physical environment is one of the most compelling parts of the HistoryPin style tours.
So I would suggest looking into what kind of visual source material you can get your hands on that you could use and that may well also help identify a historical path that you can take for constructing the tour narrative itself.