This past year, the Bishop Hill Heritage Association launched a multimedia tour of the entire town. “It is designed as a self-guided walking tour,” said project manager Brian “Fox” Ellis, “but it can also be accessed from any device anywhere in the world so anyone can enjoy a virtual tour of our historic village from the comfort of their living room.”
Built using the free app TheClio.com, this tour includes historic and modern photos, brief historic text, a text to voice audio app, and professionally filmed narration. The tour starts at the south end of town, at the Bishop Hill State Historic Museum, and then leads visitors on a walking tour meandering through the entire village. Focusing on the Colony period with interludes of recent history, the tour weaves stories of the towns founding with more current affairs. It also includes traditional Swedish music intertwined with humor and insight. The tour is both a way of immersing yourself in a delightful afternoon walk or an armchair tour of this beautiful historic village. “With pathos and delight, intrigue and tragedy, this storyteller’s tour is sure to entertain, inform, and inspire the folks who log onto this high-tech tour,” Ellis said.
“I think the original founders of Bishop Hill would be intrigued with the idea,” he said, adding, “In the Colony period this town was the economic engine of Henry County with a mill, forge, hospital and hotel, the colony was always innovating. They were early investors in agricultural technology, so it is within that tradition that we are a regional leader in developing this easy to use cutting-edge tour of the historic sites. I find it pleasantly ironic that we are an historic village with a high speed fiber optic connection to the world!”
The Clio app uses your phone’s GPS coordinates to recognize where you are and then shows you the information about that specific historic site. With the walking tour app, a simple map gives you directions on where to go next. Clio was originally designed to be a multimedia platform, but most sites simply use photos and text. Bishop Hill is pushing the envelope by adding a series of YouTube videos so you can carry your own personal narrator in your pocket. Ellis tells you the stories behind each building from the Steeple Building to the Colony Church, the Colony Hospital to the Colony Store. The focus is on the historic buildings, but there is a storyteller’s arc to give you the big picture of the village history. You can walk the tour in order or simple keep the app open and read about each site as you randomly wander.
Here is the link: https://www.theclio.com/entry/95114/tour
The Bishop Hill Heritage Association sponsored the creation of the tour with a grant from the Bill and Susan Sherrard Foundation. This project was also made possible in part by a grant from Illinois Humanities, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Illinois General Assembly. Fox Tales International and Twin City Productions are responsible for the research, script, filming and editing. Photos were contributed by the Bishop Hill Heritage Association, the Bishop Hill State Historic Site, Lou Lourdeau and Brian “Fox” Ellis.