Hello! Here is a QR code and link to my project.
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:
- Use real people and stories from the D.C./Georgetown area to promote interest in local history
- Discuss the gentrification of Georgetown and Georgetown’s history as a black community
- Pull in relevant local history to underpin the ghost narratives
- Make a tour that is easy to navigate and accessible
- 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.