Practicum: The Will To Adorn App

Note: I was unable to access the App as it is not currently offered in the U.S. App store. All information is based upon its website and App store description.

Today I will be walking you through the Smithsonian Folkways app that they created called The Will To Adorn.

Viewing Page from App Store

First, to run the app you must have an Apple device such as an IPhone that is able to download the app. As stated above, I was unable to get the app as it is not currently being offered by the U.S. App Store and so I was unable to get the app myself. However, I was able to find screenshots and other useful material for this practicum elsewhere. The Will To Adorn is probably best described by The Will To Adorn website as follows: “The Will to Adorn: African American Dress and the Aesthetics of Identity is a multi-year collaborative folk cultural research and public presentation project initiated by the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. Through the work and perspectives of museum, academic, and community scholars, and community-based cultural practitioners including artisans and designers from across the nation, this project explores the diversity of African American identities as expressed through the cultural aesthetics and traditional arts of the body, dress, and adornment.”(Diana N’Diaye). The project seeks to address identity and culture and provides ways through the app for the public to be able to submit their own photos. This in essence is a public history project, as it is history by the public, for the public.

The App Store has screenshots of their product that look like the picture below:

Screenshots from the App Store

This app allows for audio recordings based off questions centered around dress and expression. This seems to be the only thing that the app is able to do, along with allowing people to listen to other recordings. However, the website seems to be where the real action would have occurred.

Bottom half of the Homepage for The Will To Adorn

The website allows for people to see things like related articles, research tools, pictures, videos, and more. However, it does not look like it has been updated in a few years, and I could not figure out how to get a login to see if anything was behind the login wall. In addition, the other pages all say to contact an individual if you are interested in the project, and so I was unable to see any of the other tabs work much. Regardless, I think that this was a unique concept that is pretty cool.

Historypin Practicum

Hello everyone! Keeping with the theme of spatial programs, Historypin is an online platform that allows users to explore historical landmarks and sources using a map feature. Each pin identifies a location on a map that has a connection to the real world, whether that be an actual landmark such as a building, or identifying the space where a specific action occurred. There are seven tabs at the top of the site, but there are really only three that are super important.

Explore Historypin

If you click “Explore Historypin” at the top of the site, it will bring you to this page. On the left is a map of San Fransisco and the little red, orange and green circles are collections of pins. The right hand side shows popular collections related to that area. Each collection is a grouping of pins that are related either through themes or a specific area, and more popular collections are ones that have been created by an institution working with Historypin. Different organizations do this for a multitude of reasons, including collecting images, recordings, etc. for a project, trying to increase awareness about an area, or connecting to a broader audience.

Getting Started

The “Getting Started” page contains a collection of videos related to, you guessed it, getting started using the site. Related to the larger goal to raise inclusivity, the caption on each video are automatically in Spanish. The videos are all easy to follow and are pretty short, allowing users to dive right in to creating their own collections.


The third page brings you to a really beautiful arrangement of pictures, each connected to a collection. Historypin explains that “collections are groups of pins about particular places and themes, gathered by Historypin members.” There is a search bar at the top of the page and the results can be sorted by most popular, newest first, or oldest first. After you click on a collection, you are brought to a page that has different boxes with images and captions beneath them. Some will explain what the collection is, and others will have primary sources connected to a map with an explanation beneath. The site also allows you to comment on different posts.

This is a really interesting site that is relatively easy to use. It can be a little overwhelming at first, but the layout makes it easy to navigate to resources or even just browse until you stumble across something that interests you. It is an interesting combination of social media mixed with collection management, and anyone from a business to a teacher can benefit from using this platform.

ARIS Games

Anyone who is familiar with Pokemon Go will understand ARIS. Field Day, the creators of the platform, define ARIS as “a free platform that allows you to create mobile-based tours, games and interactive stories.” An easy way to think about it is that it ties together digital based content with the physical world.

Two Major Components:

Editor- this allows you to create your own maps, interactive stories, etc.

App- only compatible with IOS devices, the app is where you can play games that others have created.

How do you get started?

If you scroll to the bottom of the page you will see these three triangles.

ARIS has its own online manual and course that explain how to use the platform. The middle triangles will lead you to the online courses. This is connected to videos that range from basic introduction to the platform all the way to augmented reality and how to create an AR trigger. The white triangle is the manual which provides an in depth exploration and explanation of all the different components that go in to creating a new game.

If you click on “open manual” you will be led to a page that looks like the above image. The tabs at the top left hold all the different pages and the manual is separated into introduction, the authoring tool, links, and tutorials. Based off of the fact that the site felt the need to write “OPEN this navigation!” next to the tabs, it is clear that the manual can be a little confusing for first time users.

What does a game look like?

I wish I could answer this question, but unfortunately the app is extremely glitchy and constantly crashes. From an editors view, it works perfectly on a computer. When the app is opened on an iPad or phone it crashes and does not allow the user to actually start a game. Based on reviews of this app, this is not a new problem. If this could be fixed, this platform could be a powerful tool for educators and the public to connect with historical sites and documents.

Museum on Mainstreet, Practicum

Museum on Mainstreet is the Smithsonian’s attempt at preserving local culture and heritage by “bring[ing] traveling exhibitions, educational resources and programming to small towns across America through their own local museums, historical societies and other cultural venues.”

The Smithsonian has created connections with over 1,000 communities since 1994 when this program was started. There are two ways that people can get involved: first by visiting these exhibits created from the program and second by submitting your story to their website. Museum on Mainstreet is part of the Smithsonian’s Traveling Exhibition Service, which provides connections to the museum through exhibitions already.

So, what makes Museum on Mainstreet so different from other traveling exhibits?

They focus on rural communities!

They focus on broad topics!

They are free standing 500×800 feet exhibits!

They are designed as a “spring board” for future public history projects in the community!

Currently, there are several exhibits traveling the U.S. One called “Water/Ways” explores the complexity of the meaning of water from sanctuaries, politics, economy, and much more!

The website however includes more detailed exhibitation of the individual story. When the visitor clicks on it, they can read, listen, and/or watch media about this said story. Take for example Arianna Gomez from Maryland, who submitted her story on being Gen Z and being a first time voter in the 2020 election.

But, how do I get involved? How do I share my own story?

The pathway for this is quite fascinating and shows how the Smithsonian aids you in building public historian and folklorist skills.

You begin on the “Share Your Story” webpage where they provided you with a ton of information that may seem overwhelming at first, but will aid you in publishing your story.

It is also suggested you read their submission rules before you begin.

Here they help you in formatting your story, creating your story, and guide you in telling your story. It’s important to remember that the story needs to connect with their research topics at the current time (located here), they need to connect with local history and culture, need to tell a story, but need to be brief as well. They also suggest that you conduct an interview and/or provide video, but this isn’t necessary.

Once you have these things in mind and have gathered your materials, you will need to create an account. This is just so you can save your draft and so the Smithsonian can see who is submitting the content.

Now that you are in the site, you will need to fill out some information about yourself and about what you are uploading and contributing. For this example, I am going to be uploading a photo I took at Yellowstone National Park in 2021 to talk about visitors coming to the park. Forewarning, you will need to work quickly or the site will log you out.

Fil out your information above of yourself and the content you are contributing.

Hit “Next Page” and you will be taken to an empty block. This is where you enter your text. Forewarning, I would type it up separately and then copy and paste it into this section. After a certain amount of time, the website will log you off and you will loose your work. Trust me on this, I lost what I wrote above save for this screenshot (you will see that the text will change in the screenshots to come in this review of it).

Further down the page from the block text is where you will upload your content.

The last thing you will need to do is add media release forms for children under 18 that are included in this project. Additionally, there is a section for you to add a link if this project also exists elsewhere for you.

The last page is where you can review what you entered. Once you hit submit, you will wait for Smithsonian to get back to you for approval.

Overall, this website is very simple and is not a huge and extravagant thing that the Smithsonian is doing here. In fact, historically, this is something that has been done for hundreds of years, take for example the early recordings of folk music we have from Appalachia (termed “song-catching”) where people were desperate to preserve the music from Appalachia and considered it the last authentic part of America.

However, while there are evident concerns about bias throughout this, the project is a great way to gather material about rural America and about everyday individuals.

Notes on: Mobile Interface Theory: Embodied Space and Locative Media

Hi team! Get your big kid pants on – we are diving into some self-reflection on how we move through the world. Jason Farman takes a theoretical approach to discussing how mobile media influences our connection to place, meaning, and the world around us. In Farman’s words, Mobile Interface Theory is diving into “…the production of social and embodied space through practices with mobile technologies.” This book employs a lot of new concepts and funky words, so I did a little digging inside and outside the book to try to get solid definitions for concepts he uses. The concepts below come from the introduction

Mobile media: digital devices (cellphones, tablets, etc), print texts like metro cards, credit cards, “everyday objects that signify elements of our identity” (1)

Embodied space: the location where human experience and consciousness takes on material and spatial form (definition from here)

Ubiquitous Computing/Pervasive Computing: (definition from Wikipedia) “a concept in software engineering, hardware engineering and computer science where computing is made to appear anytime and everywhere. In contrast to desktop computing, ubiquitous computing can occur using any device, in any location, and in any format. A user interacts with the computer, which can exist in many different forms, including laptop computers, tablets, smart phones and terminals in everyday objects such as a refrigerator or a pair of glasses.” Farman asks – How can the surfaces around us become screens? Should they?

“While VR attempts to bring us into the computer, ubiquitous computing actually brings the computer outside, into our daily, lived experiences.” (11)

Wearable computing is the manifestation of ubiquitous computing think Juni’s glasses in Spy Kids or the Apple Watch. (Others are trying to take this further– look at the example of page 9 about crisis response.)

This first chapter, Embodiment and the Mobile Interface, sets the “theoretical foundation” for his discussion of mapping tech, social media, video games, and storytelling throughout the rest of the book. He spends the entirety of the first chapter telling us what and what is not embodiment. Personally, I found this concept quite up in the clouds and spent some time looking outside the book for a beginner’s definition. At its most basic, embodiment is the first-person experience of the body, “what it means to function as a being-in-the-world.” (34) I kind of like to think about it as connection to yourself/awareness of yourself in the world around you. It often comes up in reference to anthropological studies. The quote below summarizes the connection between embodiment and Farman’s work:

“By spending the entirety of this chapter focusing on my definition of ‘embodiment,’ I hope that my theories of a ‘sensory-inscribed’ body help illuminate what it means for us to experience moments like seeing our location mapped on a mobile device, interacting with others via locative social media, playing games that change our perceptions of a city, experiencing site-specific art and performance on a mobile device, and interacting with spatial histories and narratives with mobile technologies.” (17)

For a long time, people thought that embodiment, or connection to yourself and others, came from physicality. Farman states that the digital age has changed that. He argues that embodiment does not always need to be located in physical space. For example, people have meaningful connections everyday through FaceTime, texting, Snapchat, etc. This is all “…evidence that embodiment is not dependent on physical space.” (22)He also says embodiment comes from culture and biology, our five senses and subconscious. This is what he calls “sensory-inscribed,” we move through the world both by taking in the world around us and acting on the world around us. This is especially poignant in the digital age, for example, as we can be on the phone talking to someone in one state while checking out at the grocery store in another, carrying on multiple interactions and moments of embodiment at the same time. Still with me? 

Over the next five chapters, Farman applies this understanding of embodiment to mapping and space (chapter 2), location-based social media (chapter 3), locative video games (chapter 4), time (chapter 5), and storytelling (chapter 6). We learn that there is power in location on a variety of levels mirroring the complexity of how people experience embodiment/connection.

Questions for Discussion:

Chapter 2 is all about mapping – how we do it, how we interact with digital maps and physical places, etc. How might Farman’s theory impact mapping projects or how we might portray a map/place within an exhibit?

Farman says “by using locative social media, location does become meaningful for the construction of self-identity.” Chapter 3 focuses on the power of ‘checking-in’ on social media – whether that means you are close or far in proximity, in a familiar or unfamiliar place, or you don’t let people know where you are at all. How could this translate into our work as public historians?

How can a mobile media and/or a digital tool create tension or distance from an experience rather than pull you in like it’s supposed to?

What were some of your biggest takeaways from this reading?

The two following questions come from previous blog poster Sarah Adler – I thought they were really interesting and wanted to include them – see her post for an additional take on this book.

“In what contexts is the personal computing interface still preferred to the pervasive computing interface?

How do movies, video games, and other types of media influence how we understand space? If we play or view them on a portable console or phone, does that change things compared to playing or viewing on a couch at home? Does this differ from reading books that describe location?”