A grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services will enable Troy University’s Rosa Parks Museum to create a mobile app that will engage its visitors, especially the large numbers of school children who tour the museum each year on field trips.
The museum was awarded $50,000 through the IMLS’s Inspire! Grant for Small Museums program, and, according to Director of Operations Donna Beisel, the museum will team up with QuantumERA, LLC to begin work on the app sometime in October.
“This grant will allow us to create a mobile app that will make the content of the museum, specifically that found on the second floor of the Children’s Wing, more engaging for younger visitors,” Beisel said. “Right now, that space is text heavy and is not interactive. The app will help our younger visitors engage more with the story of Mrs. Parks and her activism, as well as help them learn more about the other foot soldiers of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the roles they played and the strategies they used to ensure the boycott’s success.”
The new app, which will be available through the Apple App Store and Google Play for free download, is expected to be launched in fall 2024. While it will provide some content for anyone who downloads the app anywhere in the world, Beisel said visitors to the museum will be able to unlock the app’s full potential.
“The first guide point will be the historic marker outside the museum on the spot where Mrs. Parks was arrested,” she said. “A representation of Mrs. Parks will come to life on their device and tell them the significance of where they are standing and then direct them into the museum, specifically the Children’s Wing.”
The second floor of the Children’s Wing contains images of the figures and events pertinent to the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the early Civil Rights Movement. Visitors can download the app on their own device or take advantage of the app through iPads provided by the museum to be guided through an interactive experience.
“Our goal with this app is to engage all visitors, but especially students on an emotional level and provide them with a series of immersive but educational experiences that will help them to better understand the political and racial oppression of Jim Crow segregation and the people, many of whom have often been overlooked, who fought to gain the rights and freedoms granted under the U.S. Constitution,” Beisel said. “Creating experiences that engage the students through interactive augmented reality learning activities will help younger generations understand the bravery it took for ordinary people to stand up in the face of overt intimidation and violence.”
The new app also will enable the museum to offer content to non-English speaking visitors.
“It will allow us to present that content in multiple languages, which is not something we are currently able to do,” she said. “We will start with Italian, French and German, our top three languages spoken by museum visitors from outside the United States. We will have the option to add other languages as needed.”
Beisel said the museum is also working toward future elements that could be incorporated into the app.
“We are still working toward other elements of the app, including a 3-D gamification of the carpooling system that was used during the Bus Boycott,” she said. “The user will have to figure out how to pick up different passengers and get them to where they need to be on time while navigating a series of challenges that seek to hinder their progress. It will provide a competition, where they are still learning something while competing against one another so that it is more engaging for them as they virtually meet many of those involved in the boycott – many of whom they may not know much about.”
Located on the University’s Montgomery Campus on the spot of Mrs. Parks’ historic 1955 arrest, the museum opened on Dec. 1, 2000, with the mission of interpreting the story and legacy of Mrs. Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott for future generations. Constructed on the site of the former Empire Theater, the museum has become a major landmark in the revitalization of downtown Montgomery and annually draws visitors from throughout the country and around the world.
About the Institute of Museum and Library Services
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums. IMLS advances, supports, and empowers America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development. IMLS envisions a nation where individuals and communities have access to museums and libraries to learn from and be inspired by the trusted information, ideas, and stories they contain about our diverse natural and cultural heritage.