Waco History App
“Waco History,” is both a website and mobile app that allows users to browse an interactive map of the city and select various “pinpoints” of information on the buildings, events, and people who have helped shape Waco’s legacy. A joint venture of the Baylor University Institute for Oral History and Baylor’s The Texas Collection, the idea arose when BUIOH director Stephen Sloan was introduced to the first iteration of the software produced by Curatescape for the City of Cleveland. “Cleveland Historical” was such a success, Sloan saw the opportunity to replicate it for the City of Waco and eventually, McLennan County as a whole. “We have the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, the Waco Mammoth site, the Dr Pepper Museum . . . But we’re one of the largest cities in Texas that doesn’t have a museum solely devoted to city history,” he said. “We wanted something that says, ‘This is Waco.’”
The app is available on both the Apple iOS App Store and Google Play store for smartphones and tablets and features layered, map-based, multimedia presentations. To fully develop the content for each entry, Sloan entered into a partnership with The Texas Collection (TXC) via Director John Wilson to provide background sources, photographic materials, and funding for student work positions dedicated entirely to “Waco History.” BUIOH is currently home to more than 5,700 oral histories, both audio and video, while The Texas Collection houses over two million photographs, negatives, and digital images. Thanks to the joint resources of BUIOH and TXC housed in Carroll Library, the app currently features over one hundred content-rich entries to discover, with hundreds more planned for the coming years as the project continues.
Work on “Waco History” began with an undergraduate class in oral history that Sloan taught in the spring of 2014, with more than a dozen students researching and writing entries for the site. From an educational perspective, students involved with the project develop their skills in digital publishing and will be able to emphasize that impressive experience on their resumés, Sloan said. Amanda Sawyer, then a Baylor senior University Scholar and now a BUIOH graduate assistant, became interested in the project while in Sloan’s class and sought to become involved further. Today, along with fellow second-year museum studies master's candidate Sarah Johnson, she researches and writes project entries, an experience she said has been rewarding. “My concentrations are in Chinese and history, and my plans were to work for the government in language analysis, but this has opened my eyes more to history in America and local history,” Sawyer said. “I didn’t know much about Waco until I took that course. There’s so much more out there than I realized.”
In the summer of 2014 Prisca Bird, a graduate student in the history department, began work editing the entries from Sloan’s class and augmenting them with audio/visual materials. Prisca also organized duties for undergraduate students aiding in the project, including Ezra Reilly, who aided in a large scanning project of images. Prisca noted that “In addition to allowing me to better understand my new community, the App project has allowed me to work with other talented individuals interested in public history. The App would not be of the quality it is without the hard work of research assistants Ezra Reilly and Amanda Sawyer. Both students invested a great deal of time and energy into the project for the pure love of preserving Waco's past and raising historical awareness amongst the public.”
Throughout the project, other members of the BUIOH staff contributed additional logistical support. Editor Michelle Holland provided narrative guidance and editing for the articles, and Senior Editor & Collection Manager Steven Sielaff created video clip templates and provided general technical guidance.