Mobile Historical is a location-based mobile app designed to “curate the city” through the use of geo-located historical texts, archival film and images, oral history (and other) audio, and short documentary videos. Built on Omeka, everyone’s favorite open source archival CMS, Mobile Historical is designed for simple, low-cost deployment by small- to medium-sized cultural heritage and educational institutions.
Mobile Historical began in late 2010 with the launch of the Cleveland Historical mobile app. Cleveland Historical was conceived, in part, as an evolution of earlier work by the Center for Public History + Digital Humanities at Cleveland State University’s Department of History. Earlier work by the Center’s co-directors, Professors Mark Tebeau and Mark Souther, had focused on interpreting and presenting local history using innovative methods and digital technologies. Some of that work attempted to connect users to nearby history; for example, the Euclid Corridor History Project included more than a dozen outdoor touchscreen kiosks, allowing citizens to explore local history at transit stations throughout the city. Likewise, a web-based project for the Cleveland Cultural Gardens attempted to interpret and decode one of the city’s most interesting historical landscapes. However, it was not until smartphone adoption rates skyrocketed following the launch of the iPhone that public historians could realistically expect to build projects around real-time geolocation data. Launched first for the iPhone and soon after for Android devices, Cleveland Historical was a breakthrough in that it allowed historians to tell stories and share primary source documents and multimedia presentations based on the audience’s current location, adding a meaningful new discovery layer to public history programming. As the project gained interest and accolades from the global public history and digital humanities communities, it became clear that Cleveland Historical could become a model for other projects, and perhaps even a platform.
With funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, in the form of a 2011 Digital Humanities Startup grant, as well as matching support from Cleveland State University, Mobile Historical was born, bringing a simple, low-cost, and cutting-edge mobile option to educational, history, and heritage organizations of all sizes.