Last summer, the College of William & Mary launched a new mobile app called Tribe Trek, which allows people to “[put] the history of the second oldest college in America in the palm of your hands.” The app allows users to take a self-guided, walking tour of the William & Mary campus and “learn about the history of campus buildings, sculptures and other sites through photographs, and use social media to share your stories for each site.” This app is the product of a $7,000 innovation grant and allows the Earl Gregg Swem Library to engage with the William & Mary community as well as tourists visiting the city of Williamsburg, Virginia.
The Tribe Trek app uses a system called Curatescape, which uses GPS to find your location on campus and give you information about the notable sites around you. The app then allows you to read stories about each site and directs you to Swem Library’s archives and special collections for further information. Currently, there are 74 sites on the tour, including modern sites such as Zable Stadium and historically significant sites such as the Sir Christopher Wren Building. According to the Tribe Trek developers, they “knew the library held an abundant amount of historical information about the campus, and wanted to find a way to share that history with the public . . . The walking tour gives us the opportunity to educate people on the university’s history, while bringing awareness to the library’s archives and collections.”
This app is modeled after a walking tour app at North Carolina State University. It also provides a model for other historic and/or notable university campuses located in tourist destinations, such as UNC-Chapel Hill. Apps like this allow universities to engage with the campus community, the tourist community, as well as the community at large. Apps such as this not only allow the university to engage with current and former students, but they also have the potential to draw in prospective students by allowing them to share in both the personal stories and the history of the university.