Communities can use history as a tool to develop and share the local identity of a place and its people. This local identity frames the placemaking efforts that direct community development plans. A community can exist simultaneously as a physical space in the real world and as a construct in the minds of those who know it exists. History ties the physical objects (e.g. buildings, locations, memorabilia) with the mental context for why an object is significant. Local history and the subsequent community identity grow from these stories of context. Storytelling has a positive social impact; it can be used to develop a network of resources and tackle conflict within a society.
In Delaware County, Indiana, local history is preserved and presented through the Delaware County Historical Society. The most frequent visitors are older, retired residents who seek out genealogy resources for personal projects. To expand its audience and develop a sustainable funding model, the Delaware County Historical Society must communicate history stories in a way that attracts and relates to younger residents, including the Millennial and Digital Native generations.
As technology becomes more affordable, efficient, and widespread, 92 percent of US teenagers (age 13-17) use the internet daily. Data for social media use shows that 90 percent of ages 18-29 and 77 percent of ages 30-49 use at least one social media account. To engage these younger audiences in the spaces they frequently visit, many museums have developed a digital presence on at least one platform. The Colonial Williamsburg Museum uses a combination of its website and multiple social media accounts to display photos and videos of object collections, to give behind-the-scenes access to the restoration process, and to feature user-submitted photos of visitor experiences.
To attract younger audiences to the physical museum space, many museums have incorporated interactive elements to immerse visitors in a story experience. Living history exhibits like those created by the Indiana Historical Society and Conner Prairie allow the visitor to physically step into a recreated historical scene and interact with character actors. Each interaction delivers new insight into the story of what life was like in that period of history.
The aim of this project is to incorporate digital and physical interactive storytelling to create an interactive experience for younger residents to relate to the history of Delaware County, Indiana, so they may embrace the local identity. The long-term goal is to use history storytelling to instill a sense of community pride in the next generation of residents.
A design thinking protocol will be used to develop this project. Brainstorming sessions to identify appropriate engagement activities will be conducted with stakeholders, including the board of the Delaware County Historical Society, youth programming organizers, and educators. Using grounded theory, the anonymously generated feedback will be sorted to reveal trends and identify the most effective solutions. A period of prototype testing will serve as a proof-of-concept. A non-linear, non-narrative series of digital and physical experiences will allow a public audience to interact with history and consider how their personal stories contribute to the shared identity of Delaware County, Indiana.