October 24, 2013
Director Houston McGaugh recently presented at international museum administration conference
Star of the Republic Museum administered by Blinn College has utilized modern technology to shine a light on Texas history – and museum administrators around the world want to emulate its example.
Museum Director Houston McGaugh and his staff are at the forefront of an emerging trend in which museums utilize technology to revolutionize the way they connect with the public. Last year, the museum launched a one-of-a-kind mobile application, or app, that allows iPhone, iPad and Android phone users to see what the town of Washington looked like in the year Texas won the Battle of San Jacinto and declared its independence. The museum has also unveiled a redesigned website at www.starmuseum.org.
McGaugh presented a webinar titled “Getting it Right: Designing for Mobile,” at the Museum & Mobile Online Conference Oct. 17. He presented his experience in designing the app to museum administrators from across the United States and London and offered advice on how museums can develop an online and mobile presence.
McGaugh was the only Texas-based museum director to participate in the conference.
The app, which debuted last year, reveals Washington as it looked in 1836: a rugged frontier town of log cabins and dogtrot houses, witnessing an influx of people from throughout the region who came to create a new nation. Using their mobile devices, park visitors can toggle between the full virtual world and the augmented-reality view that superimposes buildings and people against the modern environment. The app not only recreates the town, but allows users to interact with some of its citizens.
The app is free and available to download in the Apple Store by searching “Texas 1836.” Users can also visit Washington-on-the-Brazos and tour the 1836 era remotely by visiting http://www.txindependence.org.
In the year following its July 4, 2012 launch date, the app was downloaded more than 5,000 times. The project was funded by a grant from the Texas Pioneer Foundation with support from the Washington-on-the-Brazos State Park Association.
McGaugh said there is potential for another app that will offer visitors more of unique experience, such as information about how the city of Washington utilized the Brazos River, the ability to identify trees on the property and a scavenger hunt for children.
“A lot more museums are using these apps and added content,” he said. “It makes for a much more interesting experience for visitors.”
In December, Star of the Republic launched a new website with better navigation, improved content and an updated look. In addition to general visitor information, starmuseum.org provides valuable teacher resources, online exhibits and a section specifically for descendants of the signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence. The site also provides all the latest news about museum events and features a searchable database with detailed information about the museum’s collection.
Star of the Republic Museum is located at Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site off state Highway 105. It was created by the Texas Legislature and is administered by Blinn College as a cultural and educational institution. Daily museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call 936-878-2461 or visit: www.starmuseum.org.