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Next Exit History App Gets Visual Upgrade

next_exit_history1.jpg
Michael Spooneybarger/CREO
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History can’t be changed. But, Next Exit History, an app that catalogs important moments in time around the world is changing for the better through a new upgrade.

“We’re launching our beta version now,” said Dr. Patrick Moore, associate professor of history at the University of West Florida. “We’re just tweaking those last minute things that pop up.”

The app, conceived in 2006 by Moore and UWF Associate Vice Provost for Academic Programs Jay Clune, gives mobile-device users background information on historical sites around the world. Working with Historical Research Associates, a company that catalogs historic sites, the app has been licensed for use by entities around the world.

“This newest version of NEH is a complete reimagining of the user interface and an overhaul of the entire infrastructure,” said Tim Roberts, historian and NEH project manager. “The focus of this update was to create an extremely user-friendly experience, based on years of feedback, and ensure that the software was designed for speed and reliability.”

The new version will change the interface to a more streamlined, tile-based look.

“It’s a completely new design,” Moore said. “It’s now tile-based, which moves away from Yelp (restaurant locater app) model we previously had.”

While the app has always been GPS- and map-based, the update’s focus is on creating a visual experience that complements that functionality.

“We also are placing a higher premium on the visual nature of the app in terms of both basic aesthetics and how we present users with information,” Roberts said. “In past versions of the app, the primary focus was on the map. And, while the mapping component is still there and better than ever, we have also included easier ways for people to search and see the historic sites around them.”

Another idea that is more fully fleshed out in the new version is the gaming component.

“We’ve improved our ‘History Hunters’ function of the app,” Moore said. “It’s a completely new graphical experience.”

The “Backpacks,” which give users preset tours of nearby sites, are also getting improvements.

“We have also vastly improved the design of our gaming component and the tour feature within the app,” Roberts said. “In essence, this version of the app is what we originally envisioned years ago when the project first started.”

NEH is already in use around the world. In the U.S., both regional historical societies and national museums have collaborated with and used the app to improve visitor experiences.

“It’s being used in places like Mineral County, Montana, and Colonial National Historical Park in Virginia,” Moore said. “It’s gratifying to see it being adopted across the country by entities of all sizes.”

Recently, NEH has been working with one of America’s most prestigious historical institutions on an extended project.

“We are currently working with the Smithsonian Museum of African-American History and Culture on a project aimed at connecting objects in their collection back to the historic landscape,” Roberts said. “This is a multi-year project that we hope will lead to new opportunities working with other museums and cultural institutions.”

While the information in NEH is presented in an entertaining way, education is ultimately what the app is about.

“We’ve begun to create educational modules designed for classroom use that incorporate NEH,” Moore said. “We’re looking at templates and curriculum to see how they fit the standards of things like the Florida Virtual School.”

Moving into the classroom is a natural progression, Roberts said.

“The new version of the app is easily adapted for a variety of new features, and we are actively working with educational groups within the state of Florida and beyond to explore ways of integrating curriculum standards and learning metrics into NEH,” Roberts said.

The ultimate goal of NEH is to create what Moore calls a “museum outside the walls.”

“NEH has listings for artifacts that bring them to life for people,” Moore said. “People won’t just see Harriet Tubman’s scarf or a Nat Turner bible or Muhammad Ali’s headgear. They will have the context that will make those items real.”

This article is part of a collaboration between WUWF and the UWF Center for Research and Economic Opportunity.