Mobile app guides users through Virginia's history

With the Virginia History Trails mobile app, 400 years of Virginia history are at your fingertips.

The app, which can be downloaded for free via Apple’s App Store and Google Play, comes as part of American Evolution, which commemorates the 400th anniversary of key historical events that occurred in 1619, such as the arrival of the first Africans in English North America and introduction of women at the Jamestown colony, that influence the present-day United States.

With the app, users can access information on Virginia’s history from its earliest days to the modern era. The app includes descriptions of more than 400 stories and more than 200 historic places, with information on people involved and importance of each site to American and Virginian history, according to a governor’s office news release announcing the app’s launch May 14.

“We really wanted to use the latest technology and digital tools to put history in hand,” said Kathy Spangler, executive director of American Evolution.

While informational in and of itself, the app is also intended as a source for directions to sites and links more information from online sources. It also provides announcements and information related to the commemoration to users, Spangler said.

The stories in the app can be viewed individually on an interactive map of the state. They are also organized into 20 themed trails, which collect similar stories under headings such as African American, Civil War, immigration, education, women, military and representative government.

The app highlights local sites such as William and Mary and Eastern State Hospital as well as events such as the marriage of John Rolfe and Pocahontas.

The app, which developed over two years, was curated by the Library of Virginia and Virginia Humanities. Users can create profiles, share updates and check in at sites using the app, Spangler said.

The app is one of the commemoration’s main investments in promoting tourism as it is intended to drive visitation to historic sites, Yuri Milligan wrote in an email. Milligan is associate director of marketing and communications for American Evolution.

The app was made possible by a public private partnership, with $200,000 of state money used to fund efforts by the Library of Virginia and Virginia Humanities to create the app’s content. Another $350,000 of private investment was used to develop the app. The app doesn’t have a specific private sponsor. Private sponsors for the commemoration include Dominion Energy, Altria, TowneBank and other organizations, Milligan wrote.

“Virginia’s history is America’s history and the app is one of several American Evolution legacy projects that will continue to engage visitors in Virginia history for years to come,” Gov. Ralph Northam said in the release.

Jacobs can be reached by phone at 757-298-6007.


5:10 p.m., May 17: This story was updated with information about private sponsors of the commemoration.

This story was originially published at 4:45 p.m. May 16.

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