Illinois News

Modern way of looking at historic New Philadelphia available at app store

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Nov. 19, 2015 10:25 am
BARRY, Ill. -- The latest way to delve into the history of the New Philadelphia site just got easier to access.

The New Philadelphia augmented reality app has been reviewed and accepted by Apple. Searchable as "New Phil AR," the app is available for download on the app store.

Adding the Apple release to the app's availability for Android devices finishes the first phase of the project at the site of Free Frank McWorter's town, the first in the U.S. platted by an African-American.

Visitors to the site near Barry already find 13 signs with information about the historic community. Five are designed to work with the app and provide a three-dimensional re-creation of the town.

Jon Amakawa, an assistant professor in video game design at Fitchburg State University in Fitchburg, Mass., and a 3-D artist, developed the app to provide a sense of how the town was laid out and what daily life was like at that time of settlement through information, narration and sound effects. He's in the midst of work on a similar AR app for the Lincoln Home site in Springfield focused on the Jameson Jenkins lot.

The app -- created by a $10,000 grant from the U.S. National Park Service Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program and $4,000 in matching funds from the Illinois Electric Cooperative -- is one of the first of its kind to be used for tourism and cultural heritage.

Phil Bradshaw, president of the New Philadelphia Association, said discussions are underway to add AR signs at the site.

"People like it," Bradshaw said. "We've had discussions about schools and classes not only learning about New Philadelphia, but about how the new technology works ... but everything takes a little money."

The project makes the site more visitor-friendly by taking historical research, survey work and information from archaeological field schools and reflecting it in a virtual world where people, wagons and chickens move through the streets. The project highlights Broad Street, along with the Louisa McWorter home, the town's largest and most impressive structure, and the schoolhouse.

"This is really a model for presenting historical sites, especially presenting things that are more difficult to present, where structures are no longer there," Amakawa said in August.

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