Historically credible and carefully curated tours of one of America’s most popular cities are now available for free on your phone, thanks to the vision and innovation of Belmont University Honors Professor of Practice Dr. Mary Ellen Pethel.
Born as part of Pethel’s post-graduate work in Digital Humanities, Nashville Sites has grown far beyond the first two digital walking tours she created for a class project. In fact, Nashville Sites held the official launch this week of its new online walking tour platform. Their website offers more than 20 walking tours that highlight historically and culturally significant sites.
Each mobile-friendly, self-guided, free tour has a distinct theme such as Downtown Public Art & Murals, Family Fun, and Music Row. Nashville Sites also features tours celebrating the newly-designated UNESCO site Fort Negley and the 100th anniversary of Woman’s Suffrage. Through this platform, Nashville Sites seeks to engage users by connecting them to the city’s past and present .
Pethel said, “Nashville Sites is all about digital storytelling, and we use text, audio and maps to deliver some of our city’s most compelling stories. My role in this project allows me to be an academic entrepreneur, and it’s the most exciting thing I’ve ever done.”
Indeed, with funding and support from many community stakeholders, including Belmont, Pethel saw an opportunity to include her students in her research to fully integrate the Nashville Sites project with her ongoing role as an educator. Pethel sought two primary learning outcomes for her Digital Humanities Honors course: “to explore the history and significance of Nashville in the context of cities in the human experience and to develop analytical and technical skills related to the field of Digital Humanities.”
In addition to students in her classes, a number of other Belmont students, alumni and faculty were involved in bringing the project to fruition. Alumna Ali Humbrecht serves as Nashville Sites’ director of marketing and information, and Honors audio engineering technology senior Hayden Tumlin served as lead audio engineer on the project. Students Sydney Whitten, Claire Sandberg and Jayrah Trapp all interned with Nashville Sites, and alumnus Jake Wesley Rogers as well as faculty members Dr. Don Cusic and Michael Janas narrated tours.
But Nashville Sites reflects the good work and collaboration of a number of local organizations and universities with assistance being provided on narration and tours from faculty and students at Fisk , Tennessee State, MTSU, Vanderbilt, Cumberland and the University of Virginia.
Now that the site is launched and available for public consumption, Pethel and her Nashville Sites team see a future full of possibilities.
“I couldn’t be prouder of all of the the work and of our end product,” Pethel said. “Nashville Sites is available and accessible to a wide audience, including students, visitors, residents or online users. Any and all of these groups can experience different chapters of the Nashville story on the ground or virtually. There is so much to learn, and Nashville Sites truly places history in the palm of your hand.”
Humbrecht added, “Nashville Sites has the opportunity to redefine how we present and access information. The organization has the opportunity to rewrite history and to make that history accessible to anyone anywhere. The effects of this are monumental, from the classroom to the field.”
To learn more, visit NashvilleSites.org.