Rhode Island is Going Mobile

January 31, 2014
Mashapaug Pond-one of the sites that will be featured on Mobile Rhode Island

Mashapaug Pond-one of the sites that will be featured on Mobile Rhode Island

The John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage and the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities will collaborate to create a Rhode Island statewide mobile application, tentatively titled, “Mobile RI.” The appearance and format of the app will be similar to Sakonnet Historical, a mobile app developed by the Center for Public Humanities, the Tiverton Public Library, and the Little Compton Historical Society, with funding and support by RICH.

“Mobile history's time has come,” says Elizabeth Francis, Executive Director of RICH. “I’m delighted that the Center for Public Humanities and the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities are working together to develop a mobile historical application for local, place-based histories of Rhode Island. The first projects that we have chosen to get this started represent a diverse approach to Rhode Island history, from notable African Americans to Revolutionary War forts, orphanages and alms houses to the natural and social history of an urban pond. “

Like Sakonnet Historical, Mobile RI will benefit from the experience and creativity of students in Brown University’s Master’s Program in Public Humanities. Working with partner organizations statewide, students will develop local history content and launch it in an interactive, multiple media digital format called Curatescape. According to Francis, “The audience is both local and national, and Rhode Island is one of the early adopters of the Curatescape platform. Students also will have the opportunity to work with leading public humanities practitioners, who are committed and willing to take the leap into the app world—even if some of them don’t yet own a Smartphone.”

The demand for mobile apps is increasing, for users and for individuals and organizations anxious to share content, much of which has already been written and produced for different contexts. Through its own community partners, RICH recognized the need to move beyond boutique projects that reinvent rather than disseminate models for historical engagement. Yet each application will have its own flavor and unique aspects—significant, unexpected, personal, hidden, endangered, ephemeral, and moving (as well as mobile)—to create histories that make us feel connected to a place and to what matters.

“It's a great moment to develop this application,” Francis says. “It integrates mapping and multiple media but is easy to use. It also provides a way to scale the impact of the public humanities. We have the opportunity to build a statewide platform that uses shared standards and templates” that will remain relevant and useful for many years.

The initial launch of Mobile RI will occur in May of 2014. For more information about this project, contact the project coordinator, Ron Potvin, at ronald_potvin@brown.edu. For more information about RICH and the ways in which it supports the humanities in Rhode Island, visit their website at http://www.rihumanities.org.

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