PhilaPlace to AnyPlace: MWeb 2011 Presentation


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  • Hello my name is Matthew Fisher and I am presenting on our paper entitled PhilaPlace to Any Place: Building a Reusable Community Platform for Mapping and Sharing History .
  • I’d like to briefly acknowledge my co-authors on this paper, including Kim Sajet, President and CEO of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Minda Borun of Museum Solutions And Stacey Mann, also of Night Kitchen Interactive
  • Before I begin my discussion of the journey from PhilaPlace to AnyPlace, I’d like to briefly explain why we went down this road. For years, I have spoken to museum folks at conferences and individually about many exciting interactive projects over the years. Inevitably the question of budget arises, the answer to which is more often than not met with frowns and the shaking of heads. Not because many organizations don’t have funding for large interpretive projects like PhilaPlace, but that so many others do not. For once we wanted to be able to offer something produced for one organization blessed with the resources to build it, to other organizations, without those resources, at a fraction of the cost. PhilaPlace, built on open-source solutions and easily applicable place-based interpretative projects anywhere, was an ideal candidate. The Historical Society of Pennsylvania for their part always saw the PhilaPlace project as a potential model for other organizations, and gracefully agreed to share the platform.
  • To explore this path, we first needed to ask ourselves some important questions. First, is PhilaPlace a worthwhile visitor experience? Would other organizations want to use the platform? If so, what might that look like? And assuming a user-base, how should we extend the platform moving forward? In our paper, we outlined the PhilaPlace project, its interpretive approach, its features and functions, and drew on Minda Borun’s evaluation to assess visitor’s reactions. We then outlined the AnyPlace universal platform, adapted and streamlined from the PhilaPlace custom website, and explored a few models for how organizations might utilize the platform. Since we completed the paper, there have been some new developments that I will share with you that hint at the potential future for the platform, including early adopters and new features, most notably a mobile version.
  • How many of you are familiar with the PhilaPlace website? Great. I’ll only discuss it briefly here, although I encourage you to check it out while you are in town, as there is no better time to explore the site than when you can actually visit the neighborhoods showcased. Launched in January 2010, PhilaPlace is a collaborative and interactive community-oriented Web site that connects stories to places across time throughout Philadelphia’s neighborhoods, creating an enduring record of collective heritage. Under the leadership of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the project involved many partners, years of historical and archival research and documentation. Through the integration of two open source solutions—Google Maps and Collective Access collections management system – PhilaPlace supports a rich feature set that facilitates an interpretive mosaic of historical records as well as stories, photos, and video shared by experts and ordinary people of all backgrounds. But did it work?
  • According to Minda Borun’s evaluation, drawn from the first 200 or so visitors who responded to an embedded survey, the overall visitor reaction to the site and its features was overwhelmingly positive. Results indicated a successful and well-constructed Web site that is highly valued by its users. Visitors to  PhilaPlace gave the site extremely high ratings on a 5-point scale Users found the site interesting and easy to understand, with map views most frequently cited as favorite pages. When asked what they liked best about  PhilaPlace,  people commented on the content, the use of technology, and the design. When asked what they would like to change, many people asked for “more” To us, this was a sure a sign that the site is enjoyed as it was an appeal to keep the site evergreen. Almost all respondents plan to visit the Web site again.
  • Reinforced by the positive feedback, we begin developing a demonstration version of the AnyPlace platform, what was to be an affordable, customizable website platform for place-based projects anywhere. You can access a live demo of this site at Keep in mind this site is not yet mobile-optimized. To effectively display the features of the site, we populated the demo with content from the PhilaPlace site, although the key differentiator between AnyPlace and PhilaPlace is that the site can be about any place, utilize its own taxonomy of neighborhoods or regions, topics and stories. The homepage utilizes standard Google map controls and tiles, provides animated pop ups of featured places, and displays teasers about featured and recent stories.
  • The Map allows visitors to find specific neighborhoods or regions, filter by topic or contributor (indicated with a marker color system), and experience guided tours.
  • A topics area allows visitors to browse the same stories topically, sorting by a variety of means.
  • The collections area provides similar filtering and display of thumbnails and detail pages for images, video and audio.
  • The place or story detail page contains an image and media view, links and resources, access to the site on the map or directly in Google Maps. It also allows visitors to browse stops on the tour or explore related media.
  • Saved favorites are listed, saved for later with an online account, and sent to Google Maps for advanced driving and walking directions. Anywhere on the site, visitors can submit their own stories, images and media for moderation and potential publication to the site. I encourage you all to access the live demo at and kick the tires, save some favorites, or even submit a story.
  • The platform is built on Collective Access, an open source, web-based collections management system with a wide user-base in the international museum community. We chose Collective Access not only because we had worked with it before and were confident of its strengths, but found its robust feature set an excellent match for this project. We coupled this with Google Maps API, obviously, and tying it all together is a custom PHP middleware application which we refer to as AnyPlace.
  • This is a brief view of the Collective Access admin interface, which you can explore in greater detail or test drive a demo at
  • How does this all come together? We envision two models, the individual and communal models. In the individual model, we work together with one organization to install and configure Collective Access and AnyPlace on their servers. That organization then manages their collections independently through a web-based interface with Collective Access. Their content is then displayed for visitors on the organization’s own branded place-based project website via AnyPlace. Visitor-submitted stories would automatically appear in Collective Access, awaiting moderation.
  • Our first adopter of this model is the Chicago Architecture Foundation, who will be using it for a variety of place-based projects, most notably their Open House Chicago event next fall, in which they will provide visitors access to over 150 notable buildings. To facilitate this process, we are creating a web form for their 150+ site partners to submit their site information, images, and metadata directly into Collective Access for moderation, greatly reducing their data collection and entry tasks. We are also building a mobile-enabled version of AnyPlace that they will use for this project, which I will show you in a moment.
  • The other model is similar, but slightly more complex. In the communal model, one parent organization hosts the platform, while member organizations both contribute to the collection and display their own content on their own branded website. For example, here in Philadelphia the Historical Society is exploring this model with a group of interested partners. In their case, the parent site, PhilaPlace, would continue to act as a single source for a wide range of place-based cultural heritage and historical stories in the region. But other organizations could display their own content on their own branded website using the same backend systems. This would save money and administrative overhead for the member organizations. The nature of the relationships between the parent and member organizations regarding roles and responsibilities are something that HSP and its partners are working out in the coming weeks. I am sure they would be happy to share their experiences with other organizations interested in a similar communal model.
  • In closing, I would like to give you a sneak peak at the mobile version of AnyPlace, currently in development. Here you see a home screen and a find nearby places map, currently populated with good places to get a drink near the Loews hotel.
  • Here’s a place detail screen, in this case McGillins Old Ale House, the oldest Irish pub in Philadelphia. It is just a stone’s throw away, as you can see by the list view, in which the proximity is show. As the mobile version is not yet enabled, you might want to check out the “Find Craft Beer” app in the Apple app store instead.
  • PhilaPlace to AnyPlace: MWeb 2011 Presentation

    1. 1. PhilaPlace to Any Place: Building a Reusable Community Platform for Mapping and Sharing History Matthew Fisher President, Night Kitchen Interactive April 7, 2011
    2. 2. PhilaPlace to Any Place: Building a Reusable Community Platform for Mapping and Sharing History <ul><li>Authors: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Matthew Fisher President, Night Kitchen Interactive </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Kim Sajet President and CEO, Historical Society of Pennsylvania Producer of the PhilaPlace project </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Minda Borun Museum Solutions, Director of Research and Evaluation at The Franklin Institute Science Museum </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Stacey Mann Learning Strategy Director, Night Kitchen Interactive </li></ul></ul>
    3. 3. PhilaPlace to Any Place <ul><li>Why? </li></ul>
    4. 4. PhilaPlace to Any Place: Questions & Answers <ul><li>Questions </li></ul><ul><li>Is PhilaPlace a rewarding visitor experience? </li></ul><ul><li>Would other organizations benefit from adopting the platform? </li></ul><ul><li>What would be the model(s) for implementing Any Place? </li></ul><ul><li>How should we extend Any Place for future adopters? </li></ul><ul><li>Answers </li></ul><ul><li>PhilaPlace: Local, place-based, interpretative website </li></ul><ul><li>The Any Place Platform: Place-based interpretative website platform for non-profit organizations anywhere </li></ul><ul><li>The Future of Any Place </li></ul>
    5. 6. PhilaPlace - Evaluation <ul><li>First 200+ visitors who responded to the embedded survey </li></ul><ul><li>Overall reaction was “overwhelmingly positive” </li></ul><ul><li>Average ranking of 4.47 - 4.88 on a 5 point scale </li></ul><ul><li>Well-constructed site, interesting and easy to understand </li></ul><ul><li>Liked best: content, technology and design </li></ul><ul><li>Like to change: more content </li></ul>
    6. 7. Access live demo at Site Admin Selected Featured Stories Google Maps Tiles Pop ups animate map through Admin-selected highlighted places Most Recent Place showcased Standard Google Maps controls
    7. 8. Access live demo at Select a region or neighborhood to position map 3 different colored markers distinguish contributors Filter map markers by topic or source Take a custom tour
    8. 9. Access live demo at View list of stories by Most Viewed, Place name, Author or Title, Admin managed dynamic list of topical filters
    9. 10. Access live demo at Admin- managed dynamic filters of collections by Region, Topic, Media Type or Source Dynamically-generated thumbnails for images, videos and audio files
    10. 11. Access live demo at Page through media, view photos larger, watch videos Save story to My Places View place on map Open location in Google maps Page through stops in tour and related media Links to relevant websites and references Browse through tour stops and related media
    11. 12. Access live demo at Send places to Google Maps Create an account Visitors can submit their own stories, images, media
    12. 13. Any Place Platform: Place-based interpretative website platform for non-profit organizations anywhere <ul><li>Collective Access ( </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Open source, web-based software to catalog, manage and publish museum and archival collections </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>~50 museums currently using the system </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Google Maps API </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Map functions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Map tiles </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Custom PHP ‘Middleware’ </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Website </li></ul></ul>
    13. 15. individual model (self-hosted)
    14. 17. communal model (parent-hosted)
    15. 18. Any Place Mobile
    16. 19. Any Place Mobile
    17. 20. <ul><li>Thank you </li></ul>