Technology to meld past, present

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Technology to meld past, present

On February 16, 2016, Posted by , In Media Coverage, With No Comments

Technology to meld past, present
Schoharie group gets $90K grant to create interactive tourism website

By Kyle Adams February 15, 2016
Within a few years, a visitor to the village of Schoharie may be able to stand on Main Street near the location of one of the oldest outdoor theaters in the country and take a peek in real time at what the site looked like in the past.

The idea, known as augmented reality, is on the rise in the world of tourism and education, among other areas, and Schoharie Area Long Term is eager to put it into practice.

The non-profit, established to aid recovery efforts after Tropical Storms Irene and Lee devastated the county in 2011, recently received a $90,000 grant from the state Council on the Arts to begin developing what it’s calling the GeoToGo Arts and Tourism Project.

“A lot of people are using augmented reality technology, which allows you to add a layer of the virtual over the real world,” said Lillian Spina-Caza, a professor and lecturer in the department of communications and media at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy. “I do think that one of the best uses of augmented-reality technology is to bring the arts alive, is to bring history alive.”

Spina-Caza, who lives in Schoharie and and began volunteering with SALT after the storms, has been one of the driving forces behind the project.

Along with SALT project director Jerrine Corallo and community partners, Spina-Caza has been working to tie the county’s arts and historical assets together in a trail-based system that will come to life with the aid of a tablet or smartphone.

The project’s first focus will be the Schoharie County Quilt Barn Trail, which connects more than 100 works of public art, in the form of quilt blocks, around the county.

The website, or app — it’s not entirely clear what form the final product will take — will call up multimedia support based on the device’s GPS location. That could be photos or videos of the quilt being made, a story about its meaning or the history of the site, or a combination of those things and more.

“The idea is that you’re using the arts as a central tool to drive community and economic development,” said Corallo. “And that’s really how we see this project — it’s cataloging and identifying all these amazing arts assets in our community and then getting them online and taking a step further to make them even more accessible in the virtual world through this app.”

Over the next year, SALT will be holding community forums to gather input and seek material for the project — if someone has a box of old photos in the attic, Corallo said, SALT wants to catalog them.

They’ll also be seeking financial support. The Arts Council grant requires a $45,000 cash match from the organization. Corallo said they’re also pursuing a grant through the National Endowment for the Arts.

By the end of the year, project leaders plan to create the website that will serve as a foundation for the project, create the mobile app or at least have it designed, and create maps and multimedia augmented-reality tours for the Quilt Barn Trail.

In the next year, they hope to do the same for the Middleburgh Historic Trail, Schoharie Historic Homes Tour, Timothy Murphy Historic Markers Trail, and Stories of Resilience Trail.

That last trail is personal for both Spina-Caza and Corallo, who suffered personally in the storms. It’s also where the project started, and one of its most ambitious portions.

In the five years since the storms, SALT and the New York State Folklore Society have been gathering the personal stories of the survivors and volunteers. They have about 40 now, and are continuing to collect them.

“We want to focus on the element of resilience,” Corallo said. “This area does not want to be forever marred as the area that was flooded. We recognize that that’s an important part of our past, present and future— we are a floodplain, we have some of the deepest and richest topsoil in the world as a result of that— but we also don’t want that to be a reason people decide not to come here.”

The archive of stories, she said, will one day serve as a powerful resource for learning how exactly the county managed what she called a quick recovery compared to other areas hit by natural disaster.

“One of the things that’s really important to us about these stories and showcasing them is that it really shows how resilient the communities were in terms of coming together so quickly to really recover and rebuild at sort of an unprecedented rate,” she said.

Reach Gazette reporter Kyle Adams at 723-0811, or @kyleradams on Twitter.

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