Tours and Tablets

This article was originally posted on The Inkwell, the blog of the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH).

Early on in the initial interpretive planning process at President Lincoln’s Cottage it was determined that the best way to interpret Abraham Lincoln’s favorite place in Washington, DC was with a multimedia approach. This was achieved with flexible content throughout the house that would allow individual interpreters to use a remote control to trigger media in a given room.

This approach challenged the traditional historic house museum model as interpretive guides use their narratives skills in conjunction with supporting media systems in each room. While the combination of historical content and media support has proven a very effective educational tool, the hardware and software required to carry out this vision most effectively did not exist when the Cottage opened in 2008.

In response, work-arounds to the initial plan were developed and produced a satisfactory but not ideal solution and prohibited us from making any changes to the Cottage media — either in real time or in advance — that would help us better serve specific audiences.

Thanks to a recent grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, we were able to fulfill our original vision with the introduction of a tablet based system.  With the resource-rich tablets, guides at President Lincoln’s Cottage can now curate tours of the Cottage by tailoring the tour to the needs and interests of each group in real time. An array of new features, such as crisp, high-quality visuals, audio recordings of never-before-told stories, and a dramatic presentation on wartime Washington, creates an evocative, sensory experience for visitors.

Historical Interpreter at President Lincoln's Cottage training to use new tour technology.

A Historical Interpreter at President Lincoln’s Cottage trains to use new tour technology.

The rich multimedia is a catalyst for conversations on Lincoln’s revolutionary ideas and how they shaped our nation.  With the new tablets, guides can pull up supplementary historical resources that support visitors’ questions and better accommodate our adult and student visitors’ various learning styles.  To me, one of the most exciting parts of this project is the snowball effect it has had on our ideas for effective interpretation.

I know there are tons of us out there working with this technology, and I’m curious what you’re doing.  Please use the comments section to share your own experiences –pros AND cons welcome and encouraged!

-Callie Hawkins, Associate Director for Programs at President Lincoln’s Cottage

PAST EVENT: “12 Years a Slave” Screening and Lecture

President Lincoln’s Cottage and the Armed Forces Retirement Home are proud to commemorate Black History Month with a FREE screening of “12 Years a Slave,” the critically-acclaimed film adaptation of Solomon Northup’s harrowing odyssey. Join us for the screening at 6:00 pm on Thursday February 27, and then return to the Cottage for a program at 1:30 pm on Friday February 28 featuring Vera Williams, Clayton Adams, and Justin Gilliam, three direct living descendants of Solomon Northup.

UPDATE: The screening and program are at capacity, and we are adding all reservations to a waiting list. Reservations required due to limited capacity. Email HMalson@savingplaces.org or call 202-829-0436 x31228 to reserve your space at the screening and/or lecture.

Photo courtesy Fox Searchlight.

“Debating Liberty” lesson plan available now!

Click here to download our Debating Liberty lesson plan. This exercise was developed by Kathryn Notarpole, a 7th grade teacher in Arizona as part of her final project for the 2013 Civil War Washington Teacher Fellows program. Debating Liberty is designed for students in grades 7–12. Time: Three, 55 minute class periods.

Essential questions covered in the lesson plan:
-What is the definition of liberty?
-To whom did liberty apply in the 1860s?
-How do you protect the liberties of all people?

Standards alignment:
◆CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WHST.6-8.1
Write arguments focused on discipline-specific content.
◆CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL .7.1
Cite several pieces of textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
◆CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.7.2
Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text; provide an objective summary of the text.

Emancipation at 150

Emancipation at 150: The Impact of the Emancipation Proclamation is an anthology of the latest research on the Emancipation Proclamation from leading Lincoln scholars and government officials, jointly produced by President Lincoln’s Cottage and the United States Commission on Civil Rights.

UPDATE: Purchase an e-book version of Emancipation at 150:
Amazon Kindle store
Barnes and Noble Nook store
iBookstore
Sony Reader store
Kobo eBook store

Download Emancipation at 150 for free (PDF).

The anthology includes the following essays:

Continue reading

Make Freedom Ring: Remain A Slave

This post is part 4 of the self-emancipation blog series.

Sometimes enslaved Africans Americans faced the option to take a risk for freedom, they chose to stay where they lived and labored. It is important to understand this did not mean they were weak, or passive.  There are ways that these people fought against dehumanization from home.

The 20th century artist Bob Marley said “[E]mancipate yourself from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds.”

What do you think he meant by this? In what ways could we connect it to the experience of African American slaves?

Brittany C., an interpreter at President Lincoln’s Cottage and a masters student in the American University Public History program, created a website for a project in her history and new media course. Through creative use of audio and visual aids, Make Freedom Ring explores the idea of agency among enslaved people.

Click here to read the full post about Remaining A Slave.

Every Wednesday in June and early July 2013, visit the President Lincoln’s Cottage Multimedia page and/or Facebook page as we explore a different path toward self emancipation.