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.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Wing Luke Museum's Grit exhibit opens today

The Wing Luke Museum opened its exhibit titled "Grit" today, featuring a video on William Kaulehelehe that was commissioned as part of the Fort Vancouver Mobile project.

Courtesy of @FtVancouverNPS
The museum, the only U.S. institution that focuses on the Asian Pacific American experience, is located in Seattle's Chinatown-International District and affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution.

Here is more about the exhibit, on display through Oct. 29, 2014:

"Grit: Asian Pacific Pioneers Across the Northwest uncovers the true stories of the men and women who migrated to the Pacific Northwest from the Asia Pacific to start a new life. The exhibition highlights 16 sites spanning Washington State, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska, and British Columbia. The Pacific Northwest of the 19th and early 20th centuries could be an unforgiving place, from natural and man-made disasters to discrimination seen in policy and everyday life. Grit reminds us of Asian Pacific Americans' long history of fortitude and resilience as they established communities in the Pacific Northwest."

And a photo of the credits:

Courtesy of @FtVancouverNPS

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Grand Emporium of the West tablet app nearing release

We are less than a month away from the release of our latest NEH-funded mobile app; this one titled "The Grand Emporium of the West."

This app is designed for tablet computers, and it is designed for use in middle school history classes nationwide.

It continues the story of Fort Vancouver, but instead of being locative in nature, it is designed as a place-less prompting tool for classroom activities and discussions about the 19th-century frontier, wherever you are in the United States.

We have an introduction to the app, that sets the scene and provides some context about Fort Vancouver (but also can be skipped). Here are a few screenshots of that segment:

So the image you see there is a colorized version (by our multimedia designer Marsha Matta) of a historic sketch, and then we took the color away from anything that wasn't touchable, to create the main app interface:

Each colorized section, when touched, opens a prompting box, and within each box is a section of contextual information, a multimedia object (usually a video), and two suggested activities, plus two suggested discussion prompts. Those pages look like this:

And so forth ... When you touch one of the brown bars, or discussion bubbles, an interior box appears that provides a specific prompt (with a guide box also available for teachers looking to align with history thinking standards). That interior box looks like this:

Inside each interior box is a chance to collaborate, through Google Docs, as a way to share files, ideas, etc. ...

This app will be free and available for both Apple and Android devices; any history teachers out there want to give it a try, please let me know.

New research methodologies in development

While we are building these various mobile apps for place-based attractions, we also are -- of equal importance -- experimenting with different research methodologies enabled by mobile technologies.

This past weekend, for example, our enthusiastic little research team (including Dr. Michael Rabby and research assistants Lucas Wiseman and Joshua Wagner) spent three full days at Vancouver's Festival of Trees testing, among other ideas, how each different mobile medium (audio, video, animation) as well as proximity (to the physical material being presented) affects user perceptions about mobile content.

We had some slow moments, particularly early in the mornings, but, by mid-day and in the early afternoons, we often had three or four tablets running simultaneous tests. At one point, on the first day, we had six tablets running tests for about 30 minutes straight. ... That was very exciting to see.

As part of all of this, we also attracted one famous guest, who wanted to give it a whirl:

Monday, October 7, 2013

Old Apple Tree data collection

Our continuing efforts to understand mobile technologies and to make them more understandable for others extended to the Old Apple Tree Festival on Saturday. This was the second year in a row we have built an app for the festival, to investigate issues of medium and content.  In short, we have been comparing media forms, such as audio and video, and we have been comparing media content designed for a specific place, in situ, with content not connected to that place. We hope to present findings of this research at both the International Communication Association main conference and the ICA Mobile preconference in May in Seattle, among other venues.

The Columbian published a story on this festival, too, which included a mention of the research.

The mobile research team from WSU Vancouver (L-R):
Lucas Wiseman, Dr. Brett Oppegaard, Dr. Michael Rabby, and Josh Wagner.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Focus groups with the Grand Emporium of the West tablet app

We have spent a lot of the summer working on the Grand Emporium of the West tablet app, designed for middle school history teachers, a project funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and EDSITEment. We also had the rich opportunity to share that work recently with two separate focus groups of middle school history teachers, one predominately from the Vancouver School District, and one predominately from the Evergreen School District, the two largest districts in Southwest Washington. We still are sifting through the data, but, overall, the app performed very well technically, and it had many promising features that teachers were thrilled about using. In terms of development, the app clearly still needs a better overall focus, as a stations-based program, and some of the suggested activities and discussion prompts will need to be refined, I think, to better serve the teachers and students. While we are working on some of that (with a delivery date of year end), here are a few new screen shots:

Incorporates the new NEH and EDSITEment! logos.
After an animation runs, showing this historic drawing, it converts into an interface.
A basic station page, with video prompt, activity prompts, and discussion prompts.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

New FVM video, created by the NEH

Mark Katkov of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and formerly of CBS News, produced a great introductory video of the Fort Vancouver Mobile project, as part of a new series highlighting NEH projects of note.

I was interviewed for my part of the piece when I was in Washington, D.C., in February, working with Katkov and a local production studio. The work also repurposes video segments produced by FVM videographers Troy Wayrynen and Forrest Burger.

 The video is here:

Thank you Mark, and the NEH, for honoring this project with your coverage!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

More on the FVM exhibit

The physical and permanent Fort Vancouver Mobile exhibit debuted at the national historic site's visitors' center recently, but I had a chance to shoot a few more photographs of the exhibit last week and thought I would share those:
The candle-lit main sign, especially cool on dark days.

Lee Pisarek, volunteer exhibit designer and builder.

A detail of the work, showing the post-and-still construction, and the hand-crafted hardware.

Visitors already are putting the exhibit to use.

Fort Vancouver's staff also helped Lee with the construction of the exhibit,
including, from L-R, Alex Patterson, Stephen Phelan, and Cary W. Porter.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Fort Vancouver Mobile's permanent exhibit debuts!

The debut of the Fort Vancouver Mobile exhibit, on GO Day.
(Photo courtesy of Josh Wagner) 
While I was in Victoria this weekend, exhibit designer Lee Pisarek and research assistant Josh Wagner were presenting the debut of Fort Vancouver Mobile's permanent exhibit at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site's visitors center on National GO (Get Outdoors) Day. This exhibit, funded by a Clark County Commissioners' Historical Promotion Grant, is a way for us to share the video objects of the mobile app in a fun and playful way for people who might not necessarily download the app and use it.

The idea is that the video pieces can be played and shared at the visitors center, and some people might download the free app because of those, and other people, who might not want to use the mobile version, still can get some of the benefits of the media produced in this project. This exhibit also is designed so people might want to sit on the barrels, or stand next to the pelts, and take their picture with this scene in the background.

Volunteer Lee Pisarek designed and constructed this exhibit, with help from Fort Vancouver staff members. Thank you so very much, Lee! ... I will be back in town and plan to stop by the exhibit later this week, and will post more images of it then.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Finding the Kaulehelehes in Victoria

One of the benefits of coming back to Victoria, B.C., for the Digital Humanities Summer Institute again (during which Fort Vancouver Mobile has been featured prominently in our Creating Digital Humanities Projects for the Mobile Environment course) has been the opportunity to continue looking for material about William Kaulehelehe, the protagonist of our Kanaka module.

Last year, I looked on my own for Kaulehelehe's grave at the Ross Bay Cemetery and couldn't locate it. So during the past year, I made contact with a variety of people who eventually led me to Michael Halleran, secretary of the Old Cemeteries Society in Victoria, who has led tours of the cemetery focused on its prominent Hawaiians.

Michael not only told me about the Kaulehelehes, he also offered to meet me at the cemetery and show me the location of the graves of William's wife, Mary Kaai, and his hanai daughter, Mary Opio. So we met at the Ross Bay Cemetery tonight, and he took me first to William's unmarked grave:

Michael Halleran at William Kaulehelehe's
unmarked grave in Victoria, B.C. 
Here is a video of that moment, where he found the grave site:

Michael also took me to another cemetery, the Old Quadra Street Burial Ground, a few kilometers away, where Kaai and Opio also are buried in unmarked graves. That cemetery unceremoniously has been turned into a city park (a group of people were hula-hooping on top of grave sites -- probably unknowingly -- when we arrived), and almost all of the more than 1,000 tombstones at that site have been removed, but, Halleran said, the bodies still are there, including Kaai and Opio. The city's parks department removed most of the markers in 1909, when the site was "renovated" into Pioneer Square Park. At this point, because of the lack of precise records about the site, Halleran said there is no easy way to determine where the women are buried. He was able to determine that Opio was buried in the Catholic part of the cemetery, roughly near this large church marker:

Halleran suggesting where Opio might be buried.
And Kaai was interred in the Anglican part of the cemetery, in a large area of land, near this marker:

Halleran determining roughly where Kaai is buried.
Halleran also shared a variety of other insights about the Hawaiians in Victoria, which relates, at least generally to the Kaulehelehes' story: To begin with, if you know the Empress Hotel, the stunning landmark at the heart of the Victoria harbor, you also know, roughly, where Kanaka Row was in Victoria, on the adjacent street, called Humboldt now, which marks the territory of the original Victoria waterfront. Halleran said the Kaulehelehes likely lived on Kanaka Row in the 1860s, in one of the small wooden houses there, and he found the paperwork showing that William was a naturalized British subject, and therefore, at the time, a Canadian citizen as well, which gave him the rights to vote, own land, and run for office, which was much more agency than he was allowed, as a Hawaiian, in the U.S. portion of the Pacific Northwest. He apparently worked as a Hudson's Bay Company clerk, and he and his wife were affiliated with the Anglican church.

Opio (her full last name was Kamopiopio), by the way, died at the age of 15, on June 26, 1864, in what appears to have been a botched abortion. Halleran said there is some documentation and some speculation about what happened, so we are going to look more closely at that story and see what we can find.

Mary Kaai (full last name: Kaiiopiopio) died at the age of 43 (cause and date of death unknown) and was buried on New Year's Eve, the next year, 1865.

William Kaulehelehe lived to the age of 65, dying almost a decade later, on June 22, 1874.

I also grabbed the GPS coordinates of these grave sites, so I hope to embed some digital media at that those places some time in the near future, to at least leave a virtual marker of their lives. Will keep you posted!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Upcoming FVM public lecture: July 25

In our continuing quest to bridge mobile digital interpretation with journalism, I am working this summer with Fort Vancouver's archaeologist (and PSU adjunct associate professor) Dr. Doug Wilson to document and embed into the ether the process and results from the annual Public Archaeology Field School. I also will be giving a lecture on my research (as part of a public lecture series) and how it could benefit archaeologists (and public historians) on July 25 at Pearson Air Museum. 

For more details, see The Columbian article on the series

Monday, May 27, 2013

Fort Vancouver-WSUV collaboration story from the road ...

During my recent trip to Washington, D.C., for the Powell Prize award ceremony, I had a great chat with historian Dr. John Sprinkle of the National Park Service, and he told me the following about the far-reaching implications of our WSUV collaborations at Fort Vancouver:

"In May 2012, representatives of the National Park Service history and interpretation programs met at Harper's Ferry to discuss the state of history within the agency.  One of the stars of the show was Greg Shine and his description of the unique and valued partnership with Washington State University-Vancouver. One aspect that was highlighted was the Public History Field School offered at Fort Vancouver in conjunction with the University. Participants learned at the park, and we were told that the adjunct salary was forwarded to the Park.

Over the last seven years I have taught an introductory historic preservation class at several local institutions (on my own time) at both the graduate and undergraduate level.  Greg's description of the educational partnership inspired me to try a similar approach here in Washington.  I pitched the idea to Robert Sutton, the NPS Chief Historian, and in the fall 2012 I taught a graduate seminar at George Mason University and team-taught a course at the University of Maryland, College Park.  This spring I am teaching at the Northern Virginia Community College.  What would have been my adjunct salary was transferred to the National Preservation Institute, held in a fund for use by the Park History program. I am scheduled to again teach at UMCP in the fall.

I endeavored to reach out to the academic community because of recommendations in the recent OAH study, Imperiled Promise, that suggested closer ties between NPS and academic historians would be of value to both groups of scholars.  It is my hope that we might continue this experiment for a few years--perhaps until the NPS centennial to develop a measure of its potential impact. ... Thanks for leading the way with a very creative partnership."

Thank you for the inspiring story, Dr. Sprinkle, and for your service to the country! ...

FVM on the NEH's blog for Congressional and White House Affairs

Sent this out via Twitter earlier this month, but I think it's also worth mentioning here that the FVM project was featured in May on the NEH's blog for Congressional and White House Affairs. Very cool! ... Thanks for the support, NEH! ...

Grand Emporium of the West tablet app interface, Take 2

So the first run at the Grand Emporium of the West tablet app interface put us in a position of choosing between the aesthetics of the desired look from the designer (the angle of the perspective, the scope of the space, the architectural details, etc. -- and the precise historical accuracy of the image. In short, we did not have the historical resources (maps, drawings, descriptions, etc.) to make such an artistic leap justifiable, and, doing so would compromise the information integrity that we have developed so far on this project. When having to make a choice between artistry and authenticity in this project, we always have focused on historical accuracy. We would like to come back to this original idea, with more resources, and use it for another purpose, but we have a tablet app to build for the NEH by the end of summer, so we have chosen another path for now.

This second interface, which was an idea suggested by Chief Ranger Greg Shine, was to transform a historical drawing of undisputed accuracy into a touchable interface. We decided to animate this idea (animations not shown) ...

We started with the splash screen concept, of introducing the title of the app, and its funders, as illustrated in this screen shot:

Then, the app shows the historical drawing, as it was:

Followed by a gentle colorization animation (which includes quotes from the period about the prominence of Fort Vancouver in the region during the mid-1800s):

Then, at the end of the animation, only the touchable parts of the interface remain colorized:

All of this design and animation was created by our primary multimedia designer, Marsha Matta, with our primary app development expert, Joe Oppegaard, creating the backend structure to make it all work. ... When a user touches any of the colorized pieces, the ship, the houses, the bastion, etc., the app launches an activity screen, similar to the prototype below:

The media in each module is intended to initiate learning opportunities; in this case, through a discussion about the food of the period through a demonstration of the baking of seabiscuits (the hardtack that most people in the region relied upon for survival). To complement that media, various activity prompts, discussion sections, and other pop-up resources are provided on the page to encourage interaction with the information and the ideas through the affordances of the mobile device:

After all of this information is put into place, we have scheduled a focus group of local history educators to try it out in July. We also are building a series of analytic tools into the app, so we can look closely at the ways in which the app is being used (or not used). ... Will provide more updates about that later. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

NAI Region 10 Keynote

Thank you again to the National Association for Interpretation - Region 10 (especially conference coordinator Pat Berry) for inviting me to give the keynote speech at this year's annual workshop, which also included simulcasted audiences in Seattle, Alaska, and Vancouver, BC.

My talk, “Embracing Mobile: How Integrating Ubiquitous Computing Technologies Can Help to Develop New Voices, Engage With Diverse Perspectives, and Attract New Audiences," led to many thoughtful questions by the audience, and it also has led to post-conference discussions with Cowlitz tribal members, about ways we could bring the Chinook WaWa language back to the Fort Vancouver site using mobile technologies. Because of those discussions, I have a meeting coming up soon with Roy Wilson of the Cowlitz, a WaWa expert, and we hope to develop a plan for the language project as part of long-term expansion of the Fort Vancouver Mobile project. Will keep you posted! ...

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Washington state DAHP award!

Another great honor was bestowed upon the Fort Vancouver Mobile project last night at the beautiful Artillery Barracks building in Vancouver, WA. The Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation (DAHP) met to announce its annual State Historic Preservation Officer's Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Historic Preservation. The Fort Vancouver Mobile project was chosen as this year's model for Outstanding Achievement in the Media. Fort Vancouver National Historic Site's Chief Ranger Greg Shine and I accepted the award, on behalf of the research team, and to be included in this group of amazing history and preservation projects -- such as the extensive restorations of the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) in Seattle and the Murray Morgan Bridge in Tacoma -- was very inspiring. Congratulations to all of the SHPO award winners! ... My favorite comment of the night came from state Historic Preservation Officer Dr. Allyson Brooks, who talked about giving the app to a 16-year-old teen and asking her what she thought of it. The teen, at first ambivalent about the experiment, became engrossed, and later said the app was "freakin' awesome." She then asked Brooks when she could go to the fort and try it out. That encouraging comment really struck me as the ideal response we want to earn. So we'll keep working hard on making the app better and better this summer and for years to come. ...

Greg Shine (left) and Brett Oppegaard at the DAHP awards ceremony.

The SHPO News (Press Release)

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Washington State University New Faculty Seed Grant

Received the wonderful news this week that Washington State University has awarded me a prestigious New Faculty Seed Grant for $21,000 to continue my research on mobile place-based media at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. That means a lot more great research on this project is ahead in 2013-2014. Thank you, WSU! ...

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

At the National Archives, to accept the John Wesley Powell Prize

Just returned from Washington, D.C., where Greg Shine and I accepted the John Wesley Powell Prize from the Society for History in the Federal Government, for the FVM app team who worked on the Kanaka module (thank you all!). ... Here are a few pics from the presentation:

Greg Shine and Brett Oppegaard (L-R) accepting the award.

Greg Shine, before the award ceremony.

The National Archives seal, at the entry to the building.

Fort Vancouver Mobile in the Federal History Journal

Archaeologist Doug Wilson recently published this account of research of the Hawaiians at Fort Vancouver in the winter 2012-2013 Federal History Journal (congrats, Doug!), and he was kind enough to mention the FVM app work we have done along those lines as well, including a photo:

Columbian follow-up about importing news to a site

While my research focus has been on place-based media, that does not mean I am only interested in media originating in a particular location. As part of the Kanaka module, for example, we have brought into the story pieces of information from afar that could help the user of the app get a better sense of the time period, including work by Poe, Dickens, and Thomas Nast, as well as historical accounts of Lincoln's assassination, the sinking of the Sultana, and reporting of the first "base ball" game. Here is the story Tom Vogt of The Columbian wrote about that effort:

Northwest Crimson & Gray coverage of the Hartzog awards

From the spring 2013 issue:

Saturday, March 16, 2013

"Fort App-reciated" -- Columbian coverage of the Hartzog / Powell awards

A recap of the two recent FVM awards, the Hartzog Award, and the John Wesley Powell Prize, per The Columbian:

America's national parks have a lot of human stories to share. A Vancouver researcher is breaking new ground in telling them, which is why Brett Oppegaard is the National Park Service's 2012 volunteer of the year.

Learn more

Check out the blog about the project.
Oppegaard and Greg Shine, historian and chief ranger at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, also received the John Wesley Powell Prize for historical displays on behalf of the team that worked on the "Kanaka Village" project.

Did you know ?

• The Hartzog Award honors George Hartzog Jr., National Park Service director from 1964 to 1972, and his family. Annual awards are given in six categories: individual volunteer; youth volunteer; enduring service; volunteer group; youth volunteer group; and park volunteer program.
• The John Wesley Powell Prize, presented by the Society for History in the Federal Government, alternates annually in recognizing excellence in historic preservation and historical displays. It honors the ethnographer and explorer who completed the first known passage through the Grand Canyon in 1869.
Oppegaard, an assistant professor at Washington State University Vancouver, was selected from among 257,000 Park Service volunteers as the individual winner of the George and Helen Hartzog Award. He coordinates the mobile storytelling apps for iPhone, iPad and Android devices that are the first of their kind in the Park Service.
The John Wesley Powell Prize recognizes the project's "Kanaka Village" module, which details a diverse community that worked at the Northwest headquarters of the Hudson's Bay Company's trading empire.
Back when the site west of the reconstructed stockade was being cleared of blackberries, its storytelling potential was obvious; so were the obstacles, Oppegaard said.
"It's two locked buildings in an open field," Oppegaard said during a recent visit to the fort site. "How can you tell the incredible history of the village without a ranger standing by all the time?"
With mobile apps, you can tell it with video portrayals done by historical re-enactors. There also are audio elements and interactive features. Images include maps, and paintings and drawings done by visitors 170 years ago. There are links to archived documents such as old newspapers and diaries.
The application was designed by WSUV's creative media and digital culture program, in partnership with the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. The Kanaka workforce was represented by the Ke Kukui Foundation, a local Polynesian-Hawaiian cultural group, and Portland State University also provided support.

A national model

"We've used this as a national model," said Shine, who is a member of the Park Service's digital media training team.
It's a pioneering approach to sharing history, said Bob Sutton, the National Park Service's chief historian.
The Powell Prize committee made the selection based on the use of modern technology to engage the public at a historic site.
"I'm very, very deeply honored that our work has been so well received -- especially by this group of professional historians," Shine said after the announcement.
A few parks have hired media developers to produce fairly simple digital content, but those are essentially enhanced guidebooks.
The "Kanaka Project" is about storytelling. And with 398 units in the National Park Service, there are a lot of stories to tell.
While spectacular landscapes such as Yellowstone, Crater Lake and the Grand Canyon are often seen as the park system's crown jewels, "A lot of National Park Service sites are about people," Shine said.
And even sites where you're overwhelmed by natural grandeur can come with compelling human stories, Shine noted.
"Yosemite and Yellowstone had long connections with Native Americans, and with immigrants' journeys to the West," Shine said.
When Oppegaard received his award in a ceremony in Washington, D.C., park officials from across the country asked him how to develop the applications, he said.

5,000 hours into it

However, the former Columbian reporter won't be producing apps from Death Valley to Valley Forge. They're neither cheap nor easy. So far, Oppegaard has mined almost $70,000 in grants to fund the Fort Vancouver app. In the past four years, he's put about 5,000 hours into it, although much of the research was part of his doctoral dissertation.
And that doesn't include all the other volunteers, who combined to donate about 3,500 hours in 2012 alone … plus about 2,208 volunteer hours contributed last year by the students in the WSUV digital storytelling class co-taught by Shine and associate professor Dene Grigar.
Oppegaard also called in a lot of favors from friends and colleagues -- something he wouldn't do again, Oppegaard said.
But Oppegaard does hope to create an open-source program. It will be a toolkit, he said, that people across the country could use with images and videos representing their local histories.
"It mostly would have to be funded fully by grants, or other resources, to make it work at other sites.
"That said, we have built a framework here that makes applications at other sites much more efficient and less expensive than the original app was," Oppegaard said. "We have developed techniques and expertise in this project that no one else in the world has.
"Once the app has been built, very little is needed in maintenance," he said. "They very well could be at the site forever, or as long as they have some value to visitors."