Final Project: Soundwalk Ghost Tours in Georgetown

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:

  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.

Practicum: iCivics


iCivics is an online resource for educators and families to teach children about civics. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor founded the website in 2009 to teach kids about democracy, and since then it has grown into the “nation’s premier non-profit civic education provider of high-quality, non-partisan, engaging, and free resources to more than 9 million students annually, in all 50 states,” or the majority of the U.S.’s middle and high school students. The goal of the site is to better the nation’s democracy, prepare children for civic engagement, and build trust in the U.S.’s democratic institutions.

I have used the resources in this site before because it has great lesson plans and activities for students. I want to draw your attention to the parts circled in red. iCivics is compatible with popular online teacher resources like Google Classroom. Which means that the programmers of this game are keeping up to date with current trends in teaching. Also, the educator tools are free. This is great for teachers who often have to resort to spending their own money on materials to help differentiate their lesson planning.

While most of the iCivics’ fourteen games are civics and not history focused, Race to Ratify is a history focused game about the efforts to ratify the Constitution.

The loading screen says this was made with help from the National Endowment to the Humanities.

This game is more advanced than the “You are the Historian” game because it allows you to have more agency in your choices. You can also restart a previous game and save the results from your current game if you want to play again and get a higher score. The game begins by having you select a character piece, of which there are four diverse options, then you pick either free play game or historical game. I chose the historical game.

In the first part, you speak to a non-player character (NPC) that tells you the convention has decided to write a new constitution with a stronger federal government. You learn that there are two arguments, one for (Federalists) and against (Anti-Federalists) this new constitution.

Here I got an argument token for “Solving a Known Problem.” You get argument tokens by talking about the different arguments NPC’s have. If you’re talking to an NPC and you forget what they said, you can click the top right button with the speech bubbles on it to review a transcript of what they said. The question mark also provides a reference of the various parts of history and civics in the game for players who are confused.

The game doesn’t really do anything if I place the token in the wrong area.

After I got that argument token I could apparently use it to “invoke that idea in speech or writing.” At the end I will write a pamphlet but first I need to collect more of those tokens for the by speaking to other characters before I can move on. When I finished this introductory part, the game told me that speaking to a person in a state will tell me if they are leaning towards the Federalist or Anti-Federalist side.

I think this is the game telling me that I only have a certain amount of turns before the vote is held and I can’t change people’s minds anymore.

The first state to ratify according to this timeline will be Delaware. The game suggests that I need to go talk to more people, so I talk to this guy:

I was able to speak to two different people in this round. I found that if I kept asking them questions until the game made me move on instead of moving on immediately, I was able to get more tokens. I also have to select the right questions to produce a good argument. If I ask questions that are not useful, the game won’t give me more tokens.

Now I have enough tokens to write about the side I want to advocate for.

I got to pick a pen name, which was different depending on whether I selected to write for the Federalist or Anti-Federalist side. If I try to publish with the wrong type of argument token, the game informs me I made a mistake and will make me do it again, but if you do it more than once you lose points. Once I corrected the mistake, it let me print the pamphlet. They you have to move your printing press to cover the states you are interested in persuading. Once I printed the pamphlet, it causes states to be more in favor of the perspective I am advocating for. At this point the round is over and the game totals up my points.

After I get my points, I learn that there is another NPC that is printing pamphlets in opposition to mine. It makes my job harder.

In the second round, with the addition of the new NPC and the fact that there are now three people I could potentially interview even though I am still only allowed to interview two, I have come to realize that this game involves a lot more strategizing than I first thought.

Its nice that they acknowledge how the Constitution did not deal with slavery, calling it a “moral” failure.

In this conversation the NPC talks about slavery and the three-fifths compromise. I think this is an important part of the discussion around our Constitution, so I am glad they included it. This NPC was against the Constitution because it didn’t properly handle slavery, but after I spoke with him, the game allowed me to interview an enslaved character who was in favor of the Constitution.

I was surprised that her argument differed from the previous NPC’s argument.

At this point strategy was becoming more important, and I had to make some tough decisions in order to get the best results. I kept interviewing Anti-Federalists–it’s hard to know which side they are for until you talk to them, at which point it’s too late–and ended up not being able to sway New Hampshire to the Federalist side. I think it is good that the strategy is challenging because this game is for middle and high school students. If the game was too easy, then they would get bored.

Whoops. I made a mistake in the last round and lost the last three states. Oh well, I still got it ratified.

At the end you learn facts about the actual ratification process, like that it took three years to complete and the Bill of Rights wasn’t added until 1791.


I think this game is great for explaining the reasons why people were for and against the ratification of the constitution. It gives many nuanced arguments that the Federalists and Anti-Federalists had, packaging them into a format that is easy and fun to understand. The other great thing about iCivics is that teachers can assign a quiz before and after the game to test students’ knowledge and ensure that they engaged with the game. Teachers can also see the points students received for the game. iCivics claims that this game takes between 30 and 45 minutes, however, I think if you read everything and are trying to get the best score, it will probably take you longer.

There are two things that are different about this game versus “You are the Historian.” The first is that this game doesn’t aim to be historically accurate in the game play. It is more important that students understand the civic arguments than the actual historical events. This is clear from the fact that players’ storyline will not match up with the timeline of events from the ratification of the Constitution. The second is that this game is less accessible in that it does not read all of the text to players. Because this game is meant for older students, programmers probably expected students to read for themselves, but it still provided them help if they needed it. Also this game required a lot more strategy, which would be difficult for younger students to manage.

I still think it is a great and engaging educational tool. Even though the history isn’t perfect, it still does provide players with plenty of historical information.

Practicum: You are the Historian


I found this game when I was looking on the Smithsonian’s website for an activity for my students to do the week of Thanksgiving. The Plimouth Patuxet Museums, a Smithsonian affiliate, have offered this game on their website since 2002, but according to their website, they recently “reimagined and redesigned” the game with the help of FableVision Studios and an Indigenous Advisory Committee. Using oral histories, artifacts from the museum, and primary source documents, players can investigate the events leading up to the “First Thanksgiving” in 1621 from an Indigenous and Colonial perspective.

The game uses pictures, music, soundscapes, and storytelling to immerse the player in the story of Alex, a student investigative reporter. It begins by laying out three major questions– the who, what and why of the First Thanksgiving. Once inside the game, there are four puzzles to complete before players can unlock the final level.

Level 1

In the first level, players sort artifacts into these five time periods. Clicking on the magnifying glass can tell players more great information about each of these time periods. After players select the right time period, the game gives players more information about the artifact they just sorted. If players answer wrong, the game also gives them more information as a hint. What is notable here is that the time periods go all the way back to 12,000 years ago, which establishes that the Wampanoag people lived in this area for a long time before first contact.

Level 2

A common focus throughout every level and the conversations between Alex and their teacher is examining primary sources to gain information. Here players read a primary source and try to translate it into more familiar English. The game translates most of the words. They only ask players to translate some of the words, and they are given a word bank to help them. The highlighted portions are what players are supposed to focus on because those are the words that will disappear in the first translation. Just like the previous game, if a player gets a wrong answer, the game will give them a hint to help them.

Level 3

Level three is pretty similar to level one, but instead of time periods players sort artifacts into categories of who used that particular artifact. This level is teaching players that there was a lot of interaction and cultural trade between Indigenous and Pilgrim people.

Level 4

This level is similar to level four in that players look at another primary source document to understand the past. This letter tells players about what actually happened at the First Thanksgiving.

Alex talks to their teacher after each level to prompt players to think about they learned, make comparisons, and draw conclusions

At the end of each letter the game prompts players to write down the password they got from completing the letter. It’s good that they tell them this because the game does not store the passwords in an accessible location. If a player forgets, they will have to repeat the level to learn the password again.

Level 5

The first part of level five recaps what players learned in levels 1-4. Alex and their teacher also discuss what they learned and how history is more complicated than tradition narratives. The “tipster” who began the journey is revealed to be two Junior Educators at the museum. The end has a printable completion certificate.


The National Museum of American History’s website advertises that the game is good for students in grades two through six which may sound like a stretch because the abilities of a sixth grader far exceed that of a second grader. However, this game is very inclusive and learning disability-friendly. Text is large and easy to read. All text, except for the recap in level five, is read aloud by a narrator and a glossary defines all difficult words, so second graders who are working on their reading skills can still participate. Each level also has an option to “Ask and Expert” to help players who might be struggling. Another detail I noticed was that Alex was never given a gender. Additionally, Alex is a very androgynous name, so players could interpret their gender as whatever they want. This makes the game more inclusive.

The game takes about 45 minutes to an hour to complete, and is actually really educational. I learned things I did not know before. It doesn’t talk about the dark history of what happened after the First Thanksgiving, but it does give really age-appropriate information about what happened before. I ended up assigning this game to my students, and another teacher I worked with assigned it to all of her classes, first through fifth grade. As an educator, I think the only downside to this game to this game is that besides the certificate, it doesn’t give educators a way to ensure students actively participated in the game. As a public historian, however, I think that this game tells students a lot about how historians research the past and can get them interested in learning more about the work historians do. I recommend you play it if you have the chance.

Digital Project: Creepy Crawly History Haunts

The neighborhoods of D.C. are full of history though not all of it is safe for your middle school social studies textbook. From our country’s early history to modern times, the people of D.C. have recorded occurrences of the strange, the scary, and the downright sinister right here, in these very streets. My digital project aims to research these spooky phenomena and turn the information I gather into a free online walking tour.

One attraction that many people visit in D.C. is the “Exorcist Stairs.” The Exorcists Stairs are a historical landmark and might be a good place for me to start my research into D.C.’s spooky history. While other tours may show just the stairs, I hope to give a greater historical context for these stairs and why they are so significant in D.C.’s history.

With my completed research, I can map out my tour and record my voiceover to match walkable locations in the city. Locating these recordings within the city is a critical part of this project because I intend to draw viewers’ attention to surroundings that they might otherwise have missed or passed by. My goal is to give tourists and D.C. residents a greater understanding of and appreciation for their city. Most of my audience will be adult thrill-seekers, but anyone interested in learning more about the city’s history would likely enjoy my tour. There are multiple applications I could use to apply audio to geolocations, but I have been most interested in using either Locosonic or Soundtrails Creative Sandpit. Both are audiowalk apps that enable users to make a map of audio recordings for people to listen to in order.

The main problem with the audiowalks apps is that they do not receive as much foot traffic as an app like TikTok or YouTube. To get the word out about my project, I would make short TikToks to introduce the tour, give a brief overview of the tour’s content, then end with a recommendation to follow a link to the audiowalk site.

In addition to hearing my voice, those who take the tour will also encounter soundscapes I create to make the experience more entertaining. Soundscapes are the combinations of sounds that make up the audio component of any one setting. I like to think of it as background noise brought to the forefront. Ambient sound is a critical part of our mind’s subconscious understanding of things like safety, familiarity, and place. Using soundscapes takes the tour beyond what any ordinary tour guide could accomplish by fully immersing the listener into the story.

“Concentration Camps” and Holocaust Memory: Using Distance Reading to Understand the Semantics of Memorialization (Print Project Proposal)

Often when people think of the word “concentration camps” the first thing that comes to mind is the genocide of two-thirds of Europe’s Jewish population and other disadvantaged groups in the mid-20th century. However, historians and activists dispute restricting the usage of the term to the Holocaust, claiming that “death camps” is a more appropriate description of places like Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. While this may seem like simple semantics, the issue lies in the efforts to accurately represent the history of other sites of exclusion and imprisonment, such as the camps at Tule Lake and Heart Mountain—two of the places where United States government detained Japanese Americans for the duration of the Second World War. Histories of this dark chapter in America’s history favor “internment,” but some complain that this term is too euphemistic. Below I have included the definitions of internment, intern, concentration camp, and death camp from Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary.

  • Internment: the act of interning someone or the state of being interned
  • Intern: to confine or impound especially during a war
  • Concentration camp: a place where large numbers of people (such as prisoners of war, political prisoners, refugees, or the members of an ethnic or religious minority) are detained or confined under armed guard —used especially in reference to camps created by the Nazis in World War II for the internment and persecution of Jews and other prisoners
  • Death camp: a concentration camp in which large numbers of prisoners are systematically killed

These definitions do not provide concrete answers as to whether a certain event in history can lay claim to terminology whose existence precedes the historical event itself. Yet, examining trends in the usage of these terms can explain how and why this semantic dispute became part of the memory of the Holocaust.
Using distance reading software like Google Ngram, MALLET, and MediaCloud I will examine the trends in usages of internment, concentration camp, and death camp, and combine my findings with research into public disagreements over describing camps not affiliated with the Holocaust as “concentration camps.” Some of the questions I plan to answer are

  1. When did people begin challenging the use of “concentration camps” to describe camps not affiliated with the Holocaust?
  2. Why did this shift occur?
  3. What can this tell us about the historiography of the Holocaust?

I hope that through this paper I can discover more about Holocaust memory and how Holocaust memory affects our remembrance of other instances of exclusion, imprisonment, and genocide.