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Western Students Team Up to Create Digital Walking Tour

A digital map of Gunnison, Colorado with a GPS walking route traced.

Western Students Team Up to Create Digital Walking Tour

In a merging of modern and historic, a group of Western Colorado University students from the history and computer science departments have teamed up to build a website that will take people on a virtual tour of historic buildings around the City of Gunnison.

How Western Colorado University Started Working on their Digital Walking Tour

Western’s Professor Heather Thiessen-Reily, Ph.D., who has been serving on the Gunnison County Historic Preservation Commission for several years, had been looking for an opportunity to fulfill a long-held ambition to pair her history students with students in the computer science department. She found it when she got a request for collaborators on a senior project.

A Western Student’s Capstone Project Becomes a University Resource

“When the [computer science] department put out a call for senior capstone projects, I submitted this project for their consideration,” she said. “When it was chosen, I found Eric [Savage], who wanted an internship project and brought it all together.” Soon, Savage was collecting information about the historic buildings around Gunnison and passing what he’d found along to senior computer science majors Benjamin Klingbeil, Zachary Campbell, and Shay Glascott.

Combined Efforts from Western’s Computer Science and History Departments

Klingbeil, Campbell, and Glascott started building the framework for the website in January, at the beginning of their final semester at Western. When the website is completed at the end of the spring semester, they will have created an interactive map of the city, complete with links that take visitors to informational webpages with modern and historic photos and a short article about each building.

“We have set it up … so when we are done with the project, the content doesn’t stop with us. Our hope is that the website comes back into the computer science scene as an intern next semester, or another senior project group can continue to add functionality like GPS tracking or a clickable map,” Campbell said. “With this being the first time that the History and Computer Science departments have worked together on a project, it helped us build a bridge to start this project that can continue in the future.”

Future of the Western Colorado University Digital Walking Tour Website

Eventually, the team hopes that the content available on the website extends beyond the Gunnison city limits to cover some or all of the 26 county’s historic sites, the 17 sites in the county that have been identified as state historic sites, and 19 national historic sites in the county that the Commission has identified so far. “It has been really enjoyable watching the students from the two fields of history and computer science work together to create something of benefit to our community.” Dr. Thiessen-Reily said. “Digital History is a relatively new field in history, and this kind of project allows our history majors a hands-on experience with new directions in the field.”

To learn more about Western’s computer science or history programs, visit western.edu. To see the Historic Walking Tour website when it goes live on May 5, visit gunnisoncounty.org and follow the links to the Historic Preservation Commission under the Government tab.

 

Author Credit: Seth Mensing

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