Mobile Landscape Reading Response

Reading through the articles in this module and exploring the sites that offer mobile public history I have come to view the interest for local history from a different angle. Local historians are truly passionate about their place and determined to show how it has changed – whether the change happened for better or worse.

Doing digital public history that is specifically tied to place expands our knowledge of how it “emphasizes active human curation as being vital to understanding place and community identity. In this, it builds on more than two decades of scholarship premised on the argument that “place” matters.” Listening to the City: Oral History and Place in the Digital Era Mark Tebeau.  And so it does. People who reside in that place wish to draw attention to its proud moments in history, curious sites, or famous people who resided there. It seems that some of the projects grew out of the passion local historians showed towards their place. As outsiders, people may ask questions about a place inquiring: Why does this place matter? Why should I care? Why should I visit this place? Digital technologies have enabled the public to find answers to these questions on the spot. The instant history received through a mobile device makes fast connections, opens doors, and sheds light on a place as it is experienced live.

The Spokane Historical Site shows how the city has become what it is today through “Ghost Sign Tours,” invites people to its parks by relating their history, and highlighting the Hillyard Community. These stories not only dig deeper into local history, but also connect small towns to bigger events in the nation’s history. Often towns wish to bring back their history that is lost in the presence, it is hard to find its remains because the landscape of the population has altered the course in which changes take place. A booming mining town might completely disappear from the landscape existing only as a ghost town on the map. Migrant communities bringing their own culture change the needs the city has. People who represented the stories in a place move, but buildings and parks remain. Digital technologies recreate these experiences and bring them back to the present time even if the physical landscape of people, buildings, and spaces have changed.

While these DH technologies enabled public history to come alive in any place and any time, Mark Tebeau points out that “much of this work does not call forth rich historical contexts but picks and chooses which elements to sell to consumers.” Thus the question arises: Are these mobile public history technologies developed to promote history or to increase business or tourism? Academia might also agree with  Tebeau’s observation since stating the facts of history differs from examining them.

In regards to my own project, I gained a finer understanding, I hope, of why telling the story of the flight school could be important for those locals who have no connection to it. My local historian helpers are tireless in providing me with more leads to follow even though they have no family or friend who participated. What seems to drive their passion is to dig up more history of a place that has been nearly wiped off the map, a place that has changed drastically because of the population and its needs. As they are documenting old buildings and streets, they are not only counting the addition to population and business, but also rebuilding a past that does not correlate with the presence. Thus, a mobile tour of King City could make this place blossom and bring back much pride in its generational inhabitants while informing the rapidly growing new locals.


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