Fort Vancouver Mobile - A video overview

Courtesy of: Research Assistant Aaron May of Washington State University Vancouver's Creative Media and Digital Culture program. Produced in 2011.

Video highlights from the apps (36-minute version)

This montage provides a sampling of some of the video media in the Fort Vancouver Mobile apps. This app is much more than just a video distribution system, but these videos show the variety of content, from expositional segments to new journalism to those intended to prompt the development of interactive narratives.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

PSU history class demo

I gave an introduction and a quick demo of the Fort Vancouver Mobile app to Dr. Katy Barber and her Intro to Public History class from Portland State University a couple of weeks ago. The group was really interested in the project and wanted to hear more, so I was invited back to Fort Vancouver today and gave a full demo, despite the rain and wind. During the demo, the app asks the user to take a photo at the site, so I used that opportunity to snap this image of a dedicated group of Pacific Northwest students, braving the weather, to get a look at the FVM app, how it worked, and what it might mean for historical interpretation of the future:

Monday, October 29, 2012

WSU News coverage of Hartzog Award, and the new NEH grant

More extensive coverage about the Hartzog Award and the recent NEH grant award, from WSU News:

VANCOUVER, Wash. - Brett Oppegaard, assistant professor at Washington State University Vancouver, has been named the National Park Service’s (NPS) regional volunteer of the year for his assistance in developing mobile device applications during more than 5,000 hours of volunteer service.

Oppegaard teaches and does research in Vancouver for WSU’s Edward R. Murrow College of Communication, in partnership with The Creative Media and Digital Culture program. He was selected from among the nearly 80,000 volunteers -- working throughout Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Nevada and Hawaii – who competed for the 2012 George and Helen Hartzog Awards for Outstanding Volunteer Service.
In addition, Oppegaard just received a $19,421 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to expand his smartphone-based work into the realm of tablet computers. Last year, the NEH provided a $50,000 "digital start-up” grant to begin the project.

Remote sites and classrooms
The most-recent NEH grant is part of the "We the People” initiative, "designed to encourage and enhance the teaching, study and understanding of American history, culture, and democratic principles.”

To that end, Oppegaard’s research is pioneering new ways to share history and enhance the "We the People” project.
"We are focused on mobile media use at place-based attractions, such as National Park Service sites and other informal learning environments,” said Oppegaard. "We also are intrigued by ways in which formal learning environments, such as middle school history classrooms, can use mobile technologies to extend education into informal learning spaces.”

This "We the People” grant will fund the production of a tablet app and initial research into its use in middle school history classes, he said. "Potentially, this app could be used nationwide, in partnership with Verizon through the NEH's EDSITEment program.”
The phone app is designed specifically to be used at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, allowing visitors to engage both digitally and with their physical surroundings, he said. The tablet app is designed to be used away from the site.
First interactive NPS application
Volunteering at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, Oppegaard developed and produced mobile apps for iPhone, iPad and Android platforms that are the only interactive applications of their kind in the National Park system, according to Cassie Anderson, Fort Vancouver ranger.

The "Fort Vancouver Mobile” app uses geolocation technology in smartphones and tablets to help tailor the experience of visiting the fort grounds to the specific visitor at the particular place in which the person is exploring. Depending on where the visitor is standing, the apps deliver costumed re-enactment videos, still-image slides, animations, maps audio files, music and interviews with authoritative sources that depict the historic significance of each location and 1840s living conditions. Each location also offers visitors opportunities to interact, and ways for them to create their own media, as a method of participating in the interpretation of the history. 

For example, the app describes the story of a Hawaiian pastor, William Kaulehelehe, who was brought in the 1840s to Fort Vancouver by the Hudson’s Bay Company. Oppegaard said Hawaiians were transferred to the fort as low-paid employees, somewhat like indentured servants. The role of Hawaiians is a part of Northwest history that isn’t often told, he said. With the app, though, visitors not only get to learn about the Hawaiian influence, but they also get to make media that relates to what they learn.

These apps are free, available in the standard markets for each platform, and found by searching "Fort Vancouver Mobile.” 

One of seven nationally
As the NPS’ Pacific West region’s representative for 2012, Oppegaard is one of seven volunteers nationally to receive the regional 2012 George and Helen Hartzog Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service. Those seven will compete later this year for the national Hartzog Award.  The awards recognize the time, talent, innovation and work contributed to national parks through the Volunteers-In-Parks Program.

Oppegaard hopes the mobile app eventually can be expanded to more areas of the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site as well as used as a model for apps at parks across the nation. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

An alternative tablet app interface

During our design discussions about the Grand Emporium of the West tablet app interface, the question was raised: What if we used a historical image, with some added colorization and animation, as the territory upon which people touch?
That started multimedia designer Marsha Matta on a quest to experiment with such an image, to see what could be done. The full animation is only available in the app, and it shows a gentle transition between the images below. But here are screen shots that demonstrate the preliminary results, beginning with an original drawing, created by George Gibbs, in about 1850:

This would be the start state of the app:

It would gradually colorize into this:

Then the colors would fade on anything that wasn't touchable.

So each of the colorized pieces above could be touched on the tablet app, triggering the media box that contains the text, audio, video, animations and such, plus the rest of the button functions. What do you think?

Monday, October 22, 2012

The George and Helen Hartzog Awards for Outstanding Volunteer Service

I feel deeply honored and appreciative of the recent announcement that I was chosen as the Pacific West Region's National Park Service representative for the George and Helen Hartzog Awards for Outstanding Volunteer Service this year. This award, named for the former director of the National Park Service, and his wife, who both highly valued the VIP (Volunteer-in-Park) program, recognizes exceptional service within the federal agency's nationwide system. The Pacific West Region -- with national parks in Hawaii, California, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, and parts of Montana -- attracted nearly 80,000 volunteers last year, at such parks as Yosemite National Park, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Mount Rainier National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, Redwood National Park, etc. To be chosen as the top contributor, among that amazing group, is mind blowing, and an honor I share with everyone who has contributed to this project so far. Thank you all!

Here is the press release making the announcement:

A visit by Portland State U's Public History class

Dr. Katy Barber and her Intro to Public History class from Portland State University visited Fort Vancouver recently, and, as part of the program, the students had a chance to hear about the FVM project, which included a short demo. Here's a pic of all of us afterward (I'm on the far right; Chief Ranger Greg Shine is just one person over, to my right, in the hat):

The response of the class to the FVM project was so positive that we now are talking about bringing the group back for a longer demo and creating more partnerships between PSU and WSU Vancouver related to mobile means of interpreting public history.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Growing mobile page views at NPS sites

Interesting stats about the growing trend of mobile page views at National Park Service sites nationwide, generated by Michael Liang, Visual Information Specialist in the NPS Northeast Regional Office, Philadelphia, shared by Fort Vancouver's Chief Ranger Greg Shine, from the Facebook #diginterp discussion group:

In 2009, mobile page views accounted for 0.5 percent of the Internet traffic to NPS sites. In 2010, that number quadrupled to 2 percent. The next year, 2011, saw another quadrupling, to 8 percent, and in 2012, 15 percent of all page views at NPS sites come via mobile devices. Definitely a trend to watch!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

FVM project featured in open campus letter about WSU research

The Washington State University Vancouver newspaper, The VanCougar, published this week an open campus letter from Professor Emeritus Robert Bates, who is the director of the office of research and graduate education. In that letter, Dr. Bates mentions the FVM project as the first example of "exciting and innovative research opportunities for you to become involved in ..."

That was very kind of both Dr. Bates and The VanCougar to place us in that position. Thank you!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

FVM app on the National Park Service site, as part of NPS Getaways

For the next week, Fort Vancouver is being featured on the main National Park Service Web site, as a NPS Getaway:

Which includes this paragraph about our project:

"A great way to experience the Village is through the Fort Vancouver Mobile application (app), a partnership project between the park and the Creative Media & Digital Culture Program at Washington State University-Vancouver. These free apps share student- and faculty-created media – including short films, animations, interviews, and interactive games."

Monday, October 8, 2012

Old Apple Tree app research recap

Dr. Michael Rabby and I spent our Saturday at The Old Apple Tree Park in Vancouver, Wash., gathering data about app media forms. Here are a couple of pics:

This first one, I couldn't help but show this Friends of Trees mascot what we were doing. ...

The second one comes from The Columbian, the local newspaper, and its coverage of the event; I'm standing in the tan vest in front of the tree, looking for the next person to test:

Overall, the research went well. The weather was warm and sunny, definitely a better testing situation than some of my winter research, when, in the rain, very few people want to test outdoor apps. The glare on the screen from the sun did cause some temporary usability issues, and test subjects had to turn to make a shadow, or stand next to a sign that created a bit of shade, to compensate. Otherwise, though, Michael and I were able to run two tests every 10 minutes for five hours, which seemed about as fast a pace as humanly possible. More test devices on site, and more researchers conducting tests, would have increased our data yield at this event, since there were plenty of people in the area to enlist for testing. Next year, as long as it doesn't rain, I think I'll plan to double the staffing and see how that goes. We certainly learned a lot from the experience, including the creation of several new research questions.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Old Apple Tree Festival research this weekend, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 6

Michael Rabby, Brady Berkenmeier and I will be at the Old Apple Tree Park on Saturday, testing a new research tool we developed (with Joseph Oppegaard), focused upon the Old Apple Tree, the oldest such fruit tree in the Pacific Northwest. Every year, the city of Vancouver celebrates the tree and its history with this October festival. Last year, FVM collaborator Will Luers documented the festival in a short film, which we then edited into research clips, designed to test media forms at the site, delivered through mobile devices, phones and tablets. I probably shouldn't say any more than that right now, before the data is collected, but, if you want, come to the Old Apple Tree Park during the festival, and try out the free app. We'll be there from roughly 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. ... If you can't make it during that time, but still want to participate in our research, just send an email with the details of your interest, to:, and we'll set up something, by appointment.

NEH Grant No. 2!

The official paperwork just about has cleared every hurdle, so we finally can announce that the National Endowment for the Humanities has enjoyed and appreciated our Fort Vancouver Mobile work so much, it has presented us with a second grant, a "We the People" Special Projects grant, in the amount of $19,400, to expand the FVM work onto tablet computers. That pushes our external funding for this project over the $100,000 mark. Congratulations, all!

This tablet app, titled the Grand Emporium of the West, will be focused on informal STEM learning within formal educational environments, targeted toward middle school students in history classes across the country. This NEH partnership, with Verizon and the NEH educational arm called EDSITEment, will include research into interactive tablet computer activities that further engagement and comprehension of 19th century culture and society on the western frontier, through a focus on the life and times of people living at Fort Vancouver. This extension of museum science will include digital media objects that model period exploration, discoveries, and survival techniques, through such participatory topics as cooking, traveling, and artistic documentation, which then require the students to engage in the activities through various means. I'll post more updates here as we develop the free app, which we expect to launch around February of next year. If you want to become a beta tester of this app, please let me know through

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Welcome to the team: Richard Kriehn

Richard Kriehn
I met last week with Richard Kriehn, program coordinator for the School of Music at Washington State University, and he has agreed to join our team and work with us on researching the use of music in mobile apps. As part of that collaboration, Richard will be creating music for the Fort Vancouver Mobile app, and related apps, such as the Grand Emporium of the West tablet app (more on that coming soon). He already has found some fun and interesting French music from the 19th century that he will be recording, and he next will be looking for Scottish music from the period, and the real stretch for the era: music from the Orkney Islands, which was a special request from Fort Vancouver liaison Greg Shine. Our plan is to put the music into the apps and test the various responses users have to it, in different places, in different scenarios, to try to get a sense of how music can play an important role in place-based media. Will post updates when I can, but for now, here is Richard's bio:

"Richard Kriehn is the Program Coordinator for the School of Music and also teaches violin, guitar class, Survey of Music Literature and Introduction to Music Technology. He also holds the position of principle second violin for the Washington/Idaho Symphony. Mr. Kriehn earned his BM from Boise State University and his MA in Music from Washington State University. Mr. Kriehn has performed with the Boise Philharmonic, Arkansas Symphony, Nashville Chamber Orchestra and the Alabama Symphony. He also served as concertmaster and a founding member of Boise Baroque Chamber Orchestra (Boise, Idaho). Before moving to the Pacific Northwest, he and his family lived just outside of Nashville, Tennessee. While in Tennessee, he toured with Travis Tritt, Aaron Tippin and Michael Peterson, was a member of the Nashville Mandolin Ensemble and was a member of the bluegrass group “1946.” When Richard wasn’t traveling, he transcribed mandolin books for Mel Bay Publications (four to date) and performed studio work. During his five years in Nashville, he appeared at many diverse venues: Country Gold Festival, Kumamoto, Japan; The Rosie O’Donnell Show (ABC); The Grand Ole’ Opry (TNN); Walker, Texas Ranger (CBS); Farm Aid 2000 (TNN). One of his favorite musical memories, however, happened right here in the Palouse. In October of 2006, he was asked to be a guest performer on “A Prairie Home Companion” when the show came through Pullman and broadcast a live radio show from Beasley Coliseum."