Final Project: Soundwalk Ghost Tours in Georgetown

Hello! Here is a QR code and link to my project.

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https://explore.echoes.xyz/collections/uJcOi0Q0tydOyD1p

I am very excited to present to you my project, Soundwalk Ghost Tour: Georgetown. This project is a digital tour that combined authentic historical research with digital tools to create an enjoyable and immersive learning experience. I developed the idea for this project when thinking about the concepts of audioscapes and local history. I was inspired by the digital tools HistoryPin and Audacity to develop a tour that used geolocation software paired with audio clips on local history. Some of the goals I had for this project were:

  1. Use real people and stories from the D.C./Georgetown area to promote interest in local history
  2. Discuss the gentrification of Georgetown and Georgetown’s history as a black community
  3. Pull in relevant local history to underpin the ghost narratives
  4. Make a tour that is easy to navigate and accessible
  5. Produce narration that is instructional and engaging

I began my project by looking at historical newspapers talking about accidents, deaths, or murders in Georgetown. I tried to pick stories that could give me an entry point with which I could discuss the history of the city. I picked four stories: the Georgetown Wife Murder, the Accidental Streetcar Death, the Horrible Accident at the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, and Mary Pinchot Meyer’s murder. For the Georgetown Wife Murder, I discussed Georgetown’s past as a black community, gentrification, and trauma after slavery. In the Accidental Street Car Death, I gave a brief history of streetcars in D.C. For the Horrible Accident at the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, I explained the most basic functions of a lock and what the C&O canal was used for (However, I do wish I had mentioned the Canal building craze of the 19th century). Mary Pinchot Meyer’s story was the only stop where I did not discuss some type of academic history. This is possibly because her death was only sixty years ago. I considered discussing violence against women, but I think that might have been too dark for the ghost tour.

I created a persona to narrate my script. I thought that this would help with the storytelling aspect of the tour. I also tried to make it seem like the narrator was actually giving the tour in person. I think that this helps make it more immersive. As a narrator, I give written and spoken directions to assist with navigation.

One thing I learned from this project is how difficult it is to create a ghost tour using real historical research. Some of my stops are quite a distance from each other (though never more than 15 minutes). I think this creates problems because walking these distances can be straining especially for those who have problems with mobility. Another thing I learned was how to edit audio files. Because there is a lot of science and engineering involved in audio software, I found audio editing to be very complex. One major frustration for me was that pretty much all of the tour apps have a pay wall. The app I used had the smallest pay wall, but it was still limiting. There really is no perfect audio tour resource out there that is free.

As far as local history, I learned a lot about the history of Georgetown as a black community. I did not know that many freed enslaved people moved to Georgetown after emancipation. Also, I learned that many of these emancipated people built homes in alleyways and that later the city demolished them. The history of D.C.’s streetcars and the C&O canal were two other topics I had no background in before this project (I did not even know there was a canal in Georgetown).

If I had more time, I would work to refine this project in a few different ways. First, I would make an addition to the script talking about the canal building boom. Next, I would include music and maybe sound effects (this was apart of my original plan, but I had to scrap it). I also never walked the tour myself, and I think beta testing the tour would help me work out any issues with the directions or function of the tour software.

Despite these opportunities for development, I still think that the project I produced is a great way to combine digital tools with local history. I could definitely see potential in the continuation of a project like this especially if audio tour apps become more popular and have fewer pay walls.

2 Replies to “Final Project: Soundwalk Ghost Tours in Georgetown”

  1. Wow, Sara—I’m so upset that we sit on the same side of the room and so I didn’t get to hear all about this on our poster day! What an awesome topic idea and what a phenomenal result you’ve come up with. I really enjoyed your continued emphasis on accessibility throughout your observations and conclusions here, as well.

    I’d love to hear more about the persona you’ve created here. I think as a professional, it’s always challenging to establish those boundaries between yourself as an individual and your work, but a persona could really help create a clear separation. Then again, as we learned this semester, one challenge of working for an institution as a historian is that your name does not often end up being published with credit due for authorship. Rather, the institution often replaces the names of any individuals. I’d love to hear any thoughts you have on this, as well as more about the persona you created!

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