Friday, October 2, 2009

Taking a walk through history

FOLLOWING IN THEIR FOOTSTEPS: Screenshot of the iPhone application

When H.G. Wells wrote his novel "The Time Machine" in 1895, he could not have foreseen the technology that exists today. Through the genius of modern mobile technology, MGH employees and visitors to Boston are able to take a step back in time and witness one of Boston's most notorious murders. Two of the MGH's historic landmarks, the Ether Dome and the pit containing fragments of the MGH wharf and sample pilings from bygone MGH buildings, will be included in an upcoming eight-stop, iPhone-guided multimedia walking tour of Boston.

Based on the PBS documentary, "Murder at Harvard," and Simon Schama's 1990 book, "Dead Certainties," the tour details the 1849 mystery surrounding the death of MGH physician George Parkman, MD, and the conviction of John Webster, MD, a Harvard Medical School professor. The tour highlights Boston's historic Beacon Hill and the MGH within the framework of the infamous murder. iPhone users can download the walking tour application "Moving Cinema: Murder on Beacon Hill" -- created by Michael Epstein, CEO of Untravel Media -- and experience firsthand the Parkman murder mystery through a series of video screenshots and guided instructions. Starting in the Bulfinch Building's Ether Dome, participants begin by exploring the background of the Parkman homicide. The combination of the video tour's historical footage and the iPhone users' real-time presence in the actual locations allows each person to become completely immersed in the experience. Users are able to easily find each point along the route, guided by the narrator's specific  instructions and a detailed virtual map, while starting and stopping the tour at their own pace. In September, a film crew visited the hospital's main campus to photograph scenes for use in the application. As the MGH continues preparations for its bicentennial celebrations in 2011, "Moving Cinema: Murder on Beacon Hill" provides yet another opportunity to learn more about the many stories associated with the campus.

Epstein created Untravel Media three years ago as a creative alternative integrating mobile media into guided tours. This project is being sponsored by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to discover better ways of bringing history to a digital generation.

Learn more about MGH history and the Parkman murder

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