April 13-17, 2010
Denver, Colorado, USA

Interactions: Description

PhilaPlace: Place-based Storytelling with Google Maps and CollectiveAccess

Michelle Ghadfa, Night Kitchen Interactive, USA

Developed for the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the PhilaPlace Web site weaves historical records with stories shared by ordinary people of all backgrounds to present an interpretive picture that captures the rich history, culture, and architecture of Philadelphia’s unique neighborhoods.

Through the innovative use of the Google Maps API, the Web site prominently features an interactive map from which visitors can view personal stories and historical records mapped to a specific place. They can also save their favorite stories in My PhilaPlace and map sites of interest through Google Maps. The “Add a Story” feature allows visitors to contribute a story and image or video to the PhilaPlace collection, thereby contributing to the collective memory of each neighborhood.

In addition to the contemporary map, visitors can select among four historical map layers to compare earlier landscapes and view data about ethnicity, occupation, and land use in specific locations, allowing them to understand the changing nature of neighborhoods over time. Stories and images that appear as sites on this interactive map can be filtered by topic, contributor, or neighborhood. From this map interface, visitors can read the full stories and access related media and topics essays about a particular site in Philadelphia.

PhilaPlace’s growing collection is supported by CollectiveAcess, an open-source collections management system. To evoke a sense of community and personal storytelling, the 150 stories currently available on PhilaPlace are enriched with over a thousand historical and contemporary photos, along with a growing number of audio narratives and video interviews contributed by visitors, community organizations, the City of Philadelphia Department of Records, and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. The result is a truly interactive, multimedia Web site that provides a rich, layered view of Philadelphia’s historic neighborhoods through place-based storytelling.

Briefing: Exhibitor Talk: Night Kitchen [updates]

Keywords: public history, user-generated content, digital storytelling, GIS mapping, ethnography, collections management.