App Taps into American History with Unique Tour of Our National Parks as they Prepare for their Centennial

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Next Exit History™ is a free mobile app that provides a fun and exciting way to learn more about the history and culture of over 60,000 sites and landmarks around the world, additionally the app uses GPS to steer users to historical points of interest around them. With innovative and engaging storytelling, and the History Hunters™ game, Next Exit History encourages all generations to actively explore and fully immerse themselves in the incredible iconic landmarks and natural wonders in their own backyard.

Who doesn't love a summer road trip? The windows down, your favorite song blaring on the radio and the endless promise of the wonders just around the bend. Each new exit becomes a portal of possibility: the next great adventure, the meandering trail to parts unknown.

A class of students at the University of West Florida (UWF) are on just such an adventure this summer through our nation's national parks hoping to make those unfamiliar routes a little more familiar by road-testing a free mobile app, Next Exit History. Just over halfway through a 28-day tour of 10 states and 30 national parks, the students have been crafting content for multiple new locations across the U.S. for the GPS-based mobile application.

Next Exit History aims to bring interactive historical information right to your fingertips. Developed by UWF faculty researchers in partnership with Historical Research Associates (HRA), it already provides information on more than 60,000 historical sites around the world, and with this summer road trip that number is only set to grow. The students are researching their way through American treasures, such as the Jazz Age Hot Springs, AR and the prehistoric fossils at Dinosaur National Monument, UT. They are meeting with experts at each stop to develop engaging material for “History Hunters,” a new game feature in the app.

“What I am learning every day is that the history of our country is sewn into its landscapes. The spirit of our shared history is evident in every vista,” said UWF graduate student, Michelle Richoll. “It's crazy to think that the trees I am under have stood sentinel over moments throughout time, while the soil you're trekking across once felt the strike of Lewis and Clark's footsteps. Having access to this information in the palm of my hand is truly remarkable and I can't wait to deliver this material into the hands of anyone with a phone.”

With the National Park Service celebrating its centennial next year, this trip and the additions to the app are coming at the perfect time to share relevant and interesting information about the parks and their history with digital travelers, modern explorers and information technology enthusiasts.

“We are all glued to our phones at this point, they are an intrinsic part of our daily life,” said UWF professor, Dr. Patrick Moore. “Instead of fighting that, we see it as a very unique opportunity to engage with a new audience. If we already use mobile apps as our maps, why not also use them to guide us towards a better understanding of this land and the history it holds. We want everyone to have access to these magical places and their pasts, so that we can all work together towards preserving their future.”

The NEH app hopes to unite all generations, spanning iconic historical locations from the birthplace of hip hop to the Alamo. For more information, visit http://www.nextexithistory.com or contact Tessa Bodell at 808.462.1685 and tessa(at)zenwerks(dot)com

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William Rinehart
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