Saturday, June 9, 2012

Try this tour: Minnesota's Dakota War

While the Civil War sesquicentennial gets a ton of attention (and a bunch of great tours) this year, here in Minnesota we're also marking the 150th anniversary of the U.S.-Dakota War -- a conflict that led to the largest mass-execution in U.S. history. The war took place across a broad swath of the Minnesota River valley in the summer of 1862 and evidence of it has mostly disappeared.

U.S.-Dakota War audio tour stops along Minnesota River
Valley Scenic Byway.  (from MNHS)
The Minnesota Historical Society just launched a cell phone tour that brings the stories of the war and the tumultuous years around it to life in places all over the valley -- like St. Peter, New Ulm, the Lower Sioux Agency and Montevideo. It's a good example of an effective scenic byway tour -- letting a story unfold as the miles pass by -- and I'm excited to drive a big chunk of the route next weekend. I'll post a review when I'm done, but I can already tell that MNHS makes wide use of their extensive oral history collection. Placecasting is an excellent way to unlock the unique insight of those dusty old tapes.

In the meantime, here's the map. The brochure (.pdf link) that accompanies it is also a good thumbnail overview of the war. No map is really necessary though: call 1-888-601-3013 to sample the tour. Use #01 for the overview.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

North by Northside: MPR Sound Points at Five Points Building

Thanks to Hawthorne Hawkman for writing about our Sound Point project! Looks like he saw the QR codes posted in the window of the stil-empty storefront at Penn and Broadway. Glad someone bothered to stop and scan the codes on a cold day.

He makes a good point about having a hard time posting the links on Facebook. Anyone have ideas of how to fix that?

North by Northside: MPR Sound Points at Five Points Building: Post, photos, and video by the Hawthorne Hawkman. Almost a year ago, I did a blog post about one idea of the many nifty things one c...

Monday, August 29, 2011

Here's a long overdue update to the first stage of our new Minnesota placecasts:

The signs are at the printer and will soon go up in Duluth! Visitors to the iconic Enger Tower will soon have the chance to hear audio "tours" from local experts about the fascinating landscape below the tower. CLICK HERE to preview the tours. Any feedback is welcome.

Signs for our first seven Minneapolis murals will go up in September as well. More exciting is that we're now partnering with the city to create a dozen more artist interviews to be accessible at works of public art throughout the city. I'm interviewing the artists now and those will hopefully be available this fall.

I'm also overhauling the historical tour of the Northstar Rail Line. It'll feature interviews and audio rather than just me chattering on. It'll be ready this fall, but since most winter Northstar runs happen before dawn and after dusk, we may not launch the new version until next spring.

I haven't had any time to review new tours around the country, but there are more and more coming out each day. I'm excited our friends at the Minnesota Historical Society have created a walking tour of the State Fair this year.

There's also a must-hear presentation by former NPR producer Bradley Klein about "Designing and Producing Audio Tours" at the Association of Independents in Radio web site.

Summer is winding down. Keep discovering news sounds and places while you can!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Minneapolis Murals first draft

Here's a preview of the Minneapolis Murals Project I'm working on. I used Google Fusion Tables to create this map. I'll be able to add other projects to the same map as they come on line. I'll only publish the murals now because it's the one project where the audio is actually ready.

Soon the audio will be available on-site via SMS/phone and hopefully we'll get a mobile web site up as well.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Signs for Placecasting

As I work on creating a few sets of Placecasts around Minnesota, I'm thinking about what the signs should look like to let people know the audio is available. I'm going to collect sign images here. Feel free to send some in:

I found this at the Lincoln Memorial one night. Simple cell phone interface with a good preview of the topics:

A much more mysterious set of signs in Toronto. No hint of the content, but high "cool" factor that must have generated calls:

Sunday, June 6, 2010

A Mansion, a Museum and Music

Some placecasts I've seen in the news recently:

The Vanderbilt Breakers Mansion
  • A Seattle Post Intelligencer blogger mentions the audio tour of the famous Breakers Mansion in Newport, Rhode Island this week. A two hour tour sounds too long to me in an old house, but there are 20 bathrooms to get through. The tour sounds like much more than narration. It includes sound effects (which can be a great touch or profoundly cheesy) and oral histories from people who lived at the mansion. The audio producer's description of the tour is actually a great read and includes these details:
"'The push for audio tours grew out of an effort “to become more relevant and engaging for our visitors and to move away from a specifically fact-based guided tour,” said John Tschirch, the preservation society’s architectural historian and director of academic programs....The recording includes narration, sound effects, commentary from architectural experts and past servants, and readings of memoirs of Vanderbilt family members...'You entered the house as a Vanderbilt or guest, now you entering the dining room as a servant' is the new approach of the audio tour, which relies on hallways used by servants that weren’t open for guided tours."
(Speaking of Rhode Island, here's a great short audio story from NPR on Friday about R.I.'s famous weenies. I wonder if the Vanderbilts served these at garden parties...)
  • A National Geographic exhibit currently at The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia is using the voice of Cleopatra to narrate an audio tour if it's exhibit all about...Cleopatra. According to a story in "After a five-minute video introduction, an audio tour delivered as if the queen herself were speaking, fills visitors in on the details of her life." Yikes. The writing and voicing had better be exceptional to pull this sort of thing off. But the audio tour sounds old-school compared to the other features of this high-tech exhibit: "The exhibit includes high definition multimedia, original soundscapes and a mobile-based social media scavenger hunt." National Geographic knows a lot about education and interpretation, so I'm very curious to hear how this exhibit is received.
  • The award-winning Toronto Music Garden is packed with music and dance from now through September. The outdoor garden and performance space is, literally, inspired by Bach (for example, the "Prelude" is a "An undulating river scape with curves & bends", followed by the "Allemand", "A forest grove of wandering trails"...etc.) In a $6 70-minute audio tour now available near the park, cellist Yo-Yo Ma and landscape architect Moir Messervy explain how they turned music into a park. This concept is so well tailored for placecasting that I'd be disappointed if such a tour wasn't available. (via Music Industry Mews Network)
    Toronto Music Garden (via City of Toronto)