OverTime app lets you explore your city’s invisible history

The history of a spot is as a lot about what’s there as what got here earlier than. However so typically, until it’s memorialized or made apparent in another bodily approach, the historic context of locations merely disappears.

For Paul Farber, director of Monument Lab, a Philadelphia-based public artwork and history studio, it is a downside price fixing. To attempt to resurface the disappeared items of a spot’s history, Monument Lab has created OverTime, an augmented actuality app for smartphones and different units that goals to disclose the overlapping histories which have formed locations over time.

[Image: Monument Lab]

“Generally it’s actually seen, generally that relationship is rendered in a statue or historic marker, however more often than not, history lives with individuals, and you’re balancing what’s seen and unseen,” Farber says.

Monument Lab is actively reimagining how history is represented in cities. Certainly one of its main tasks, now underway and funded via a $4 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Basis, is a nationwide effort to evaluate and gather the tales behind U.S. monuments. This new AR-based app was initiated simply earlier than the pandemic and supported via a grant from the Knight Basis, and seeks to construct on the idea of reimagining the ways in which history is constructed and remembered.


[Image: Monument Lab]

“We’re actually within the metaphor of digging up histories and tales which are under-told,” Farber says. “With augmented actuality you can try this in a approach that’s actually considerate and interesting.”

The OverTime app, presently out there free for iOS units and shortly for others, is optimized to be used in Philadelphia, however can be utilized wherever. The bodily setting of the app is likely one of the metropolis’s most well-known and visited locations, the steps main as much as the Philadelphia Museum of Artwork, an area landmark additionally recognized for a scene within the movie Rocky. “It’s the last word pedestal,” says Farber.

[Image: Monument Lab]

It’s additionally a spot with deep and overlapping histories. A part of the Lenape individuals’s land earlier than colonization and the institution of town of Philadelphia, the positioning noticed lots of of years of settlement and industrialization earlier than housing the museum, which itself has a novel backstory. Its well-known steps have been designed by Julian Abele, one among nation’s the primary Black architects.

The app brings collectively all this history, providing customers a self-guided tour of the positioning that enables them to look again at maps displaying how the positioning and metropolis have modified all through the centuries, and to delve into particular tales from varied factors in that timeline. One can see how the museum steps have been a spot of protest for many years, or examine how the well-known Rocky statue close to the steps has been replicated in a city in Serbia. By way of augmented actuality and the display screen of a tool, maps and imagery are superimposed over the bodily setting of the steps and town it seems out on.

One vital component of the app is to ask individuals to contribute their very own tales and interpretations of the positioning. Customers can textual content responses to questions posed to them: What has occurred right here? What can you see from right here? What does this statue imply to you?

[Photo: Lori Waselchuk/Monument Lab]

“You’re invited to inject and add and construct your personal story into it,” says Ursula Rucker, a Philadelphia-based poet who serves because the app’s tour information. Participation, she says, is vital to serving to individuals have interaction with the area, but in addition to really feel that they’re part of its ever-changing story. “It exponentially grows,” she says. “Then it’s not simply the history sitting over right here on an island, which is the way it’s all the time been.”

Farber says know-how affords new venues for this extra expansive view of history to emerge. The app, he says, can “search for the constructed monuments and constructions that outline a spot but in addition pull in and collect the tales which are recognized however typically carried in particular person individuals or communities and never all the time put in a shared body.”


Created in collaboration with know-how firm Dream Syndicate and the Heart for Public Artwork & Area on the College of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman Faculty of Design, OverTime’s Philadelphia steps version is a prototype tour for what Monument Lab hopes shall be a sequence of augmented actuality guides to different public areas across the nation.

“The work of the app is to not current a completed history,” Farber says. “It’s to supply one thing that gestures to the truth that the story remains to be being written each day.”