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Nov282011

New Walking-Tour App by SILS Professors Shows Influence of German Culture on New York City

The new German Traces NYC app created by SILS Professors Anthony Cocciolo and Debbie Rabina.Did you know that the builders of the iconic Puck Building in SoHo were the publishers of a wildly popular 19th-century German humor magazine? That the Bloomingdale’s department store was started by two brothers from Bavaria in present-day Germany? That the global cosmetics brand Kiehl's was started 160 years ago by a German immigrant as an apothecary for selling old-world herbal remedies? 

These are just some of the facts about the history of German culture and influence in New York City to be learned from the German Traces NYC project, an interactive tour created by School of Information and Library Science (SILS) professors Anthony Cocciolo and Debbie Rabina.

German Traces was designed in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut, which awarded Cocciolo and Rabina $56,000 for research and development of the project. German Traces is a mobile app that allows a user to go to a neighborhood—Yorkville on the Upper East Side, for instance—and find nearby landmarks of the city’s German history. Then, standing in front of a building or a memorial, the user can read about the site, watch a video, and listen to a podcast. Huge populations of German immigrants settled and created distinct communities in various areas of the city—such as Yorkville—in the early 20th century, so a user is able to visit several sites at one time.

“It is the same kind of information that you would get in an archive or library, but it is a different way for people to access the material,” explains Cocciolo.

Cocciolo says the project was a perfect collaboration. The Goethe-Institut, with its mission to promote German culture, was interested in creating an interactive tour. The SILS researchers had their own mission. “As information specialists, we wanted a project to investigate the viability of place-based learning,” says Cocciolo. “There is a lot of enthusiasm around mobile learning, but it’s important to find out what works.”

Cocciolo and Rabina created the tour using the open-source software GeoStoryteller, which Cocciolo developed along with Layar, another open-source software that creates augmented realities, showing, for instance, an archival photo layered over a current one.

In 1880, about a third of New York City’s residents were German or German-American, with only Vienna and Berlin containing more German speakers than New York.

Rabina says they were drawn to the project because of its challenges; among them, many Americans associate Germany with stereotypical traditions such as Octoberfest. She also says they wanted a project that was historic, but had implications for today’s society.

“We wanted it to tie into broader themes, and the theme of immigration, of biases and prejudices toward immigrants groups, are certainly no different than they are with other core groups today.”

Rabina says the project also taps into the core mission of SILS and information professionals.

“We’re always thinking about what it is libraries can do in terms of attracting a new audience while staying true to their core mission, which is bringing people together with high-quality materials.”

Text: Abigail Beshkin
Photo: Courtesy of German Traces NYC

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Reader Comments (5)

German Traces was designed in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut, which awarded Cocciolo and Rabina $56,000 for research and development of the project. German Traces is a mobile app that allows a user to go to a neighborhood—Yorkville on the Upper East Side, for instance—and find nearby landmarks of the city’s German history. Then, standing in front of a building or a memorial, the user can read about the site, watch a video, and listen to a podcast. Huge populations of German immigrants settled and created distinct communities in various areas of the city—such as Yorkville—in the early 20th century, so a user is able to visit several sites at one time.
May 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterIraqi Dinar
German Traces was designed in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut, which awarded Cocciolo and Rabina $56,000 for research and development of the project. German Traces is a mobile app that allows a user to go to a neighborhood—Yorkville on the Upper East Side, for instance—and find nearby landmarks of the city’s German history. Then, standing in front of a building or a memorial, the user can read about the site, watch a video, and listen to a podcast. Huge populations of German immigrants settled and created distinct communities in various areas of the city—such as Yorkville—in the early 20th century, so a user is able to visit several sites at one time.
May 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterIraqi Dinar
Some good points here, had great time reading this. Thanks.
After reading this post immediately I have installed this app on my S3 mobile phone and it is working fantastic. Thanks for such a nice APP.
January 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAmazon India coupons
Then, standing in front of a building or a memorial, the user can read about the site, watch a video, and listen to a podcast. Huge populations of German immigrants settled and created distinct communities in various areas of the city—such as Yorkville—in the early 20th century, so a user is able to visit several sites at one time.
October 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterHairstyle for long hair

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