The Florida Humanities Council first introduced a free walking tour app that can be downloaded on your Android or Apple phone to kick off St. Augustine’s 450th anniversary in 2015, but the popularity of the app, known as “Florida Stories”, quickly led to its expansion.
Myrtis Young, manager of the Polk County History Center, was among the first to take advantage of the council’s $5,000 grants offered to Florida communities to research and develop interactive tours of their own.
“It’s an engaging tool to inspire tourists and residents to experience historical sites right where they happened,” said Young, who also reached out to cities and towns within Polk County to participate.
Monica Pierce, director of the Lake Wales Museum and Cultural Center, answered Young’s call, working with the city of Lake Wales to attain the grant.
“Now you don’t have to wait for the museum to open to see the history of Lake Wales,” said Pierce, who sees the app as a key to local history for those intimidated by traditional museums. “A large component to preservation is simply knowledge. Many residents may not know the soul of their city is captured inside a lot of these buildings. It gives them a fuller picture of what these buildings represent and why they’re important to save.”
With the app’s interactive tours—complete with historic photos and immersive sounds—history extends beyond the museum’s walls and reaches right into your pocket, your classroom and to the historical sites themselves.
Jayme Jamison, Curator of Education for the Polk County History Center, said the app’s ability to place local people and places within the context of national events is what excites her most. “Students will often tune out in American History because the battles we usually talk about happened elsewhere, or our history books only tell what the Great Depression was like in the northeast,” said Jamison. “Florida Stories helps our students gain a better sense of place.”
In addition to two local tours available for download:
- St Augustine – Colonial Tour
- St Augustine – Gilded Age Tour
Walking tours are currently available for:
- Lake Wales
- Tampa’s Ybor City
- Key West
- Fort Pierce
- Tarpon Springs
- Fernandina Beach
These new cities are coming soon:
- Ormond Beach
- St Petersburg