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Heritage branding, analytics and international perspective with Jamie Donahoe of Adventures in Preservation

adventures teaser

What if you could take your vacation time to not only see a new place, but meet new friends and use your hands to preserve built heritage all at the same time?

That’s just the kind of unforgettable experience Jamie Donahoe facilitates around the world. She co-founded Adventures in Preservation with the mission to save the world’s architectural heritage by supporting community-driven preservation projects that seek to create economic and environmental sustainability.

Jamie has a very down-to-earth personality that comes through in her communication online as well. In this interview, she talks about how she uses the web to tell the stories of heritage resources. But, just as importantly, she’ll explore how the Adventures in Preservation concept came about, and hopefully give you some insight into developing and marketing your own heritage brand.

Jamie Donahoe at Bartow-Pell Mansion
Jamie Donahoe at Bartow-Pell Mansion

Guin: Your site is called Adventures in Preservation, and was actually just rebranded. Tell me how it got started, and where you are today. [Time stamp #00:02:30.6#]

Donahoe: We used to be called Heritage Conservation Network and we started back in 2001 with an idea that a friend of mine–Judith Broeker–had. It was a typical Catch-22: People wanted to learn how to preserve buildings, but there was very little opportunity to get practical and experience. What was available was very expensive. So she had this idea of finding buildings that needed help. We did that for a while, and it eventually faded away. Then, in 2001, I was in the process of moving from Bangkok to Switzerland, and she said she would like to give the idea another try. So, I said let’s do it as a non-profit as a way to get grants and work with different types of structures. We launched Heritage Conservation Network, and we have projects in Italy, Mexico, and throughout the U.S. Word started to spread, and we found ourselves with more places in need of help than we had people to work on them. So we decided we needed more volunteers. We changed the focus more toward the volunteer vacation than the preservation training. You don’t need experience to go on the trips, although we love to have people along that will share their experience. That’s where we started. Then we did some research and decided to change the name to Adventures in Preservation, which seemed to be a little more dynamic and fun. For some reason, people couldn’t remember Heritage Conservation Network, just as they can’t remember names like The National Register of Historic Places–it’s always the National Historic Register, or something like that. We’ve had workshops in eight countries at this point. #00:04:57.4#

Guin: It really is a greater experience than just the classroom. Is that what inspired you to enter this “realm of endeavor?” #00:05:09.0#

D: In terms of the hands-on stuff, yes. Similar to the environmental movement, we really believe that the heart of preservation is education. By making preservation more accessible to people we help them realize that much of what they see around them has historic value and help them gain an appreciation of that. Just like teaching children you recycle for a reason, you try to convey why a building should be preserved by pointing out its special architectural value, history, setting, etc. I think that’s why our trips do well. We do a pretty good job converting people who aren’t yet die-hard preservationists. #00:06:02.9#

G: What do you see being the most common story about why people want to get involved? #00:06:09.8#

D: First, there are people who are contemplating a career in historic preservation, but aren’t yet sure it’s for them. We have a high success rate with that. We’ve had people pounding rocks for a week in the hot sun and they finishing saying “this is what I want to do for the rest of my life!” We also get a lot of “desk preservationists” who have never had the opportunity to do any of the hands-on stuff. For example, preservation planners may talk to planners or see their plans get implemented, but never have the opportunity to get their hands dirty. They then return to their jobs renewed and connected to what they’re working for. #00:07:06.8#

G: What do you see for the future of Adventures in Preservation? #00:07:20.8#

D: We’d like to continue to grow. We get many more requests for assistance than we can possibly account for. A sustainable level for us right now is 4-5 workshops a year. We’d like to expand that to 15-20 fully-staffed programs around the world each year. #00:07:51.9#

G: You alluded to the evolution of the brand. Adventures in Preservation is a name that sticks. Probably there are many heritage preservation organizations who are contemplating reworking their image for the digital age. Tell me about the process you went through, and what advice would you have for others? #00:08:19.9#

D: We made a decision early on, due to environmental concerns and the global nature of our work, to be a virtual organization. There are just two of us, so the nature of internet communication lets us accomplish quite a lot. There are so many ways to communicate now–Twitter, Facebook, etc. But before those, we had a strong presence using website and e-mail strategies. We’re very lucky that the person who set up our website was very together and designed our presence to be organized, easy to navigate and polished. In redesigning the website, we began to incorporate social media like embedded video and images to make the experience more dynamic. Interestingly, we have hits from 72 different countries, and when we look at our stats, we have a number of people who choose to receive our e-mail in text only, and have very slow connections. We have to consider the needs of our audience because we have projects in Africa, South America, and other countries. So everyone should keep in mind that not everyone is running broadband and wireless. #00:10:37.8#

G: How did you come up with the new name? #00:10:42.6#

D: In Boulder, Colo., you get a lot of creative and outdoorsy people. So Judith convened a panel–some had marketing expertise, others had adventure travel expertise–who generously donated their time. They brainstormed coming up with a name from both the heritage and travel angles. The name Adventures in Preservation came out of that with the tagline “restore a building, renew a community.” That is essentially what our projects do. #00:11:28.5#

G: You’re using your website to great effect, and your social media presence as well. I’ve never been on one of your trips, but I’m certainly a fan and follower. Tell me how you picked the communications tools that you did and how you use them in such a targeted, conversational way. #00:12:13.6#

D: Unlike many preservation organizations that work locally or regionally, we work all over the world. We honestly sat on the idea of getting into Twitter and Facebook because we couldn’t imagine fitting it in. It got to the point that we realized that we had to be on there if we wanted to start attracting students and younger people to the programs. Then, information started coming out about the fastest growing demographic on Facebook is women 55 and older. We knew we got a lot of those people on our trips, so we knew we had to be there. We didn’t want to miss the boat. I’m a total information junkie and love computers, so I love finding so many interesting things on Twitter. We had people become fans because I talk about so many topics. I don’t know yet it that has translated into people coming to our workshops yet. I’m still having fun. What’s been useful about social media already is getting feedback from people who might tell us they can’t go on our trips because they are too expensive. Because we have a dialog already going, we can let them know we sometimes have scholarships or financial assistance, and offer other tips for reducing their costs. We can also communicate that more broadly to other people who might be thinking the same thing. #00:14:23.7#

G: Have you run across anyone who went on your trips and really discovered a new passion, and went on to become involved with preservation as a mission in their own lives? #00:14:33.2#

D: A lot of our guests already have a preservation bent anyway. There is a woman who has been on four trips with us. She is a self-described conservation junkie. There are more people who went on a specific project and became preservation advocates of just that project. For example, in Waynesville, N.C., at the Francis Gristmill, there’s a man there who turns out to be my father’s long-lost cousin. He lived part time in Waynesville and saw an article in the newspaper. As retired engineer, he was intrigued. So he joined that workshop and has since become one of the key volunteers of the Francis Mill Preservation Society. He is now one of only three people who know how to run the mill, so that resource certainly benefited longterm from his participation in that project. #00:15:47.2#

G: What sparks people to make the leap to sign up for one of your projects? #00:15:58.8#

D. That is the $100,000 question. Ordinarily, they see something on the website. It interests them personally, but not quite sure so they call for more information. We do have a lot of people who hear about a project, instantly fall in love with it, and sign up. To show you how far the web has come since we started, there is a group called the Analysis Exchange, and they match mentors. They are helping us with the web analytics, which is more deeply scientific than I ever knew. That is helping us understand how people are interacting with our website and informing what we do to communicate through it. #00:17:03.4#

G: What analytics platform are you using? #00:17:09.9#

D: We’re using Google Analytics, and learning so much. I always just looked at the reports to note if our hits had gone up, but have now learned an incredible amount. I would recommend that any non-profit organization that’s looking to use its website to help further its mission to contact them. #00:17:42.2#

On a return visit to Francis Mill in 2009 to check up on the structure. Pictured are Tanna and Tim Timbes of the Francis Mill Preservation Society, Jamie's daughter Colleen, Jamie, her uncle Jerry Donahoe, and Ken Walton, who also volunteered at the first workshop in 2004 and has become a long-time supporter and volunteer.
On a return visit to Francis Mill in 2009 to check up on the structure. Pictured are Tanna and Tim Timbes of the Francis Mill Preservation Society, Jamie’s daughter Colleen, Jamie, her uncle Jerry Donahoe, and Ken Walton, who also volunteered at the first workshop in 2004 and has become a long-time supporter and volunteer.

G: How important is an international perspective for a preservation organization? #00:17:46.8#

D: I think an international perspective is important for everything. I’m personally very grateful to have worked overseas for so many years, and for my daughter work grow up overseas as well. I think the more information you can get for any problem you are facing, the better. A lot of the problems buildings in the United States are now having, people in Europe dealt with 200 years ago. We have to share that knowledge. There’s a lot of historic reinforced concrete (yes there is such a thing) here that’s falling apart due to humidity, and they bring in experts to deal with those problems. Steven Booker is an Australian conservation architect who went to our workshop in Slovenia two years ago and just fell in love with the country. He agreed to come back this year and lead the work. His perspective is that our purpose is to share our stories and experiences and hopefully they decide that approach is for them. But we’re not telling anyone how they have to do anything for it to be right. It’s about doing what’s right for the buildings, but also helping people make informed decisions. #00:19:22.3#

G: How can people connect with you, and are there any new areas of the web you are starting to explore? #00:19:33.6#

D: We have started blogging, and the site is called “Preservation Journey.” We’re currently merging the blog into our main site. Blogging is fun because it can be about anything–Twitter on a larger scale. We’d also like to be able to do commerce online more easily. This is a bigger issue when you are working internationally. For example: we have people who are Slovenian and they want to go to a workshop in Albania, but PayPal may not take their currency. As the world becomes even smaller and web software makes these kind of transactions easier, these problems will continue to become fewer. #00:20:48.4#

G: Do you ever get to do some of the hands-on work, or are you stuck in the virtual space? #00:20:48.4#

D: I get to do a little of both. I had a good time broiling in the sun at the Bartow-Pell Mansion. My best experience was at the Francis Mill, though. Partly because of finding my father’s cousin. The people were great. When I was there in 2004, the building was in a state of near collapse. The east side was completely water damaged. We had two weeks there, and the last hour, we had a boom crane lift this 26-ft. hemlock sill beam and we slid it into place. It was the greatest experience of my life, other than having my daughter. We were all saying “Oh my God, we did it! We saved this building!” There’s not too many opportunities you can say you really did that. #00:22:06.6#

G: Very good! Is there anything else you’d like to add? #00:22:07.8#

D: We certainly invite you to come along on one of our workshops. We’ve got some great ones planned for the future!

More links:

Adventures in Preservation Flickr Stream

Facebook Page

Twitter Stream

Voices of the Past Video Netcast: Genealogy Gems’ Lisa Louise Cooke on establishing roots in the social web

Coming up in this edition of the Voices of the Past Netcast, we’ll meet Lisa Louise Cooke. Lisa created and maintains Genealogy Gems–one of the world’s most popular genealogy websites. She’ll tell us about the learning curve involved in using online media, and how she uses the web to create a deeper connection to her audience.

Thanks for joining us. I’m Jeff Guin. We’ll have that interview in a moment. First, here are a couple of briefs about heritage in the online world.

National Parks on Expedia

Expedia is partnering with the National Park Foundation on a new Web site to help travelers enjoy their trips to U.S. national parks a little more.

The site at includes downloadable park maps and other content from the National Park Foundation, as well as information about lodging options outside the parks.

The content also includes suggestions for long weekend itineraries with stops at national park sites in Colorado, Texas and Michigan, and a series of stories called “Can’t-Miss National Parks.” The first five parks featured in the “Can’t-Miss” series are the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Glacier, Olympic and Yosemite.

The timing of the Web site launch was designed to coincide with the airing of Ken Burns’ new documentary on public television, “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.”

Virtual Museum of Iraq

Italy is putting the Baghdad museum online.

The Virtual Museum of Iraq is designed to make some of the world’s most important artifacts accessible to everyone.

The site offers visitors the chance to walk through eight virtual halls and admire works from the prehistoric to the Islamic period, while videoclips reconstruct the history of the country’s main cities.

The site is available in Arabic, English and Italian.

Visitors can rotate some objects in the virtual museum to get an almost 360 degree view.

Italy contributed one million euros and provided expert staff to help restore the museum, creating a restoration laboratory in Baghdad and overhauling the museum’s Assyrian and Islamic galleries.

Present-day Iraq lies on the site of ancient Mesopotamia between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and the Baghdad museum boasts one of the best collections of ancient artfacts in the world.

Around 15,000 of the museum’s relics were carried off during a 48-hour looting spree in 2003 in the wake of the US invasion.

While around 6,000 works have been returned, many other pieces are still missing.

The Baghdad Museum Project is looking for international partners to help with its four-part plan to help save the museum. The program hopes to establish an online catalog to help locate the artifacts from the Baghdad museum.

It would also like to create collaborative workspace within the virtual Baghdad Museum, to allow international teams to work together.

Featured Voice of the Past: Lisa Louise Cooke
October is family history month in the U.S. And to celebrate, we’re featuring one of genealogy’s most prolific and beloved web personalities.

Lisa Louise Cooke has been passionate about family history since she was a child, looking at old family scrapbooks with her grandmother.  Since then, she’s turned that passion into a career.

She is the producer and host of the popular  Genealogy Gems Podcast, an audio and video genealogy show available in iTunes.

Additionally, she hosts the monthly Family Tree Magazine Podcast and videocasts for Family History Expos. I spoke to Lisa Louise Cooke recently, and here’s what she had to say about how she learned to use social media tools to promote genealogy.

[INTERVIEW BEGINS]
Cooke: I think it wasn’t difficult because I was so passionate about it. It’s like when it hits you, this is the right way to go, this is the right medium, I know what my message is then it was like, there aren’t enough hours in the day. And so for 30 days I think I was doing it around the clock just eating up everything I could find in just terms of how do you podcast, how do you hook the computer up, where do you get a mic, how do you set up a blog, and I was constantly–if I wasn’t podcasting or setting things up myself, I was out running around and doing arraigns  and listening to other people on podcasts explain how to do it. And that’s why I think that within the month I was able to get it up and running. But the ideas have been formulating for a long time, and it is kind of the classic story of you can look back and your life and say, “Wow. Everything I have been doing up to this point has been about getting ready to do this.” Because everything from my theatrical background to producing videos to being on a television show and learning about interviewing, my passion for family histories, some of the teaching opportunities I had had in small class settings, all came together and it was like, “This is the time, this is the moment where it all gels.”

Guin: So here’s a scenario: Someone’s watching this and they’re inspired, and they are developing their own sense of mission, and they want to involve new media in it. What advice would you have for that person? How do they get started?

Cooke: Education. Educating yourself and know that there are a lot of free options out there to educate yourself. I mean there are some great books and things, but life keeps going on and you want to try to get as up to speed as possible as quickly as you can. I tapped into a lot of podcasts, I just went in there and I did key word searches on how do you do this, how do you do that, video, podcasts, whatever. And I would typically find somebody who had great information. So constantly educating yourself, thinking about what your message is. You really can’t be everything to everybody. In fact, I was just interviewing a blogger on my family podcast, and she was saying, “You know, you can’t be so and so, they are already there, you know? Don’t try to mimic somebody else, but take what your strengths are and use that. And then decide what the focus of your message is. And also one thing I have just been using lately when I wrote my courses for the university was YouTube. People, particularly older folks, tend to get nervous about going onto YouTube because there is a lot of stuff out there that they don’t want to see. I’m with them on that, but if you use that search box you will be able to hone right into what you are looking for and you bypass all that stuff. And so when I was looking for these different topics that I was writing about, I would go out and throw a key word out into YouTube and I would find somebody who produced a video about it and I got a little snippet here and there, and I was able to reference that and give that to my students. My gosh, I just took up knitting. Couldn’t figure out how to do a yarn over and I went and put up “knitting yarn over,” and there was somebody showing me how to do it on the video. So that can be applied to anything. And there is a lot of great people producing content, and every single day there is something new. So it’s always worth going back and checking. I dunno, does that answer your question?
Guin: It certainly does. And I think it’s important for people to realize as well for people doing that knitting video probably had a $300 camera from Walmart. It doesn’t take a lot of money or fancy equipment to produce this stuff. So I guess what would be valuable if you could just share some of the equipment you use.

Cooke: It’s evolved over time. I have started out with one of those little $10 RadioShack microphones, you know, the little plastic ones. Very quickly realized I didn’t like the sound of it, and I went and bought a podcasting kit, which had the microphone and that type of thing on Amazon and have upgraded from there. And that brings me back to when you are trying to learn how to do some of this stuff, you think I do want to do a blog or I do want to do video, go out and find somebody that you think is doing a terrific job. And watch it. And look for the details. Don’t worry about all the big picture stuff that they are talking about. I really believe that it’s in the details. That’s where the real connection happens, and the quality happens. And then right now I have my new Macintosh, which is kind of the video, auto center. I have my old PC that I finally got a new flatscreen for. I had my laptop because I do go and I do do presentations. Last year I invested in my own projector so now I can say, “Yep. I can go to a seminar,” and I can be set up to go. And my latest is my Boom, I guess you can call it a Boom for my mic. Before it was always on my desk, and you know, I would go crashing and it would hit the floor, and I would bump it and that kind of thing. Now it’s on a Boom. It looks like like it does in a radio station. And I think it was a $100, but it seemed like an extravagance to me. I waiting a long time to spend the money on it, and it is a godsend. That and the popscreen for the microphone. So, like you are asking me, if you hear somebody you think is doing a great job or you like their video. You’d be amazed. People are so helpful. I email people all the time, “By the way, can you give me an idea or an clue or whatever,” and people are always willing to share. That’s one of my mottos: ask, ask, ask. Don’t be afraid to ask, all they can do is say, “No, I’m too busy.”
Guin: And that’s the great thing about the web, you can ask people all over the world. You’re not limited to just your local area.

Cooke: I had a podcaster in Australia contact me and say, “Oh, I heard your podcast. Loved this, loved that, but you might tweak this to get the sound better.” And he had been doing podcasts for two years, so it was amazing.
[INTERVIEW ENDS]
Lisa Louise Cooke speaks nationally on genealogy topics. She is also the author of the book Genealogy Gems: Ultimate Research Strategies as well as the Genealogy Gems News Blog.You can listen to more of our interview in the Voices of the Past audio podcast on the shownotes site and on iTunes. 

And our shownotes site is also the place to find out more about all of the stories we’ve told you about today. That’s all for this edition of the netcast. In the meantime, we’ll see you online.

Podcast: Michael Phillips on creating Sense of Place with video “iGuidez”

For three years now, Michael Phillips has had a dream that he hopes will someday spread to the rest of the world: to create “sense of place” with video. It seems the tech world has helped set the stage for that dream, incorporating video functionality into everything from mobile phones and music players. With his website and blog, iGuidez, Phillips provides a template for capturing and sharing special sites for netizens everywhere to enjoy. In this interview, Michael Phillips talks about how he developed iGuidez, and the challenges of running a heritage website.

 

Welcome to the Voices of the Past podcast. I’m Jeff Guin, and today I’m talking to Michael Phillips of the heritage travel site, iGuidez.

Guin: Michael, welcome to the podcast. I was wondering if you would just start by telling us what iGuidez was designed to do.

Phillips: My experience as a traveler has been that guide books only ever give you a paragraph or two or sometimes even a few sentences about a famous sculpture or a church or anything like that on a local level. And therefore, I was always one that I wanted more information, I wanted to know more about what I could go to see rather than think, “Oh, this is really those three stars or four stars, so I have got to go see it,” whereas maybe it’s not in your taste at all. So I’ve been trying to get more concentrated information out about single items that you can go and see on a local level.

iGuidez is all about local information. I am trying to explain things better with video and photos and written text all in the one page as you see on my website.

Guin: Alright, well, how did you come up with the name for your site?

Phillips: Ah, that was easy. It was a fluke. I mean, as you might appreciate yourself, trying to get a name for anything on the Internet these days is virtually impossible. So it took me a long time at the previous name I had was JungleJam.tv, basically because I couldn’t find another name. And then one day, I just had upon iGuidez with a zed, you know so, it just came. It just happened like that.

Guin: Obviously this is a mission for you. You’re kind of looking at this as your calling. What experiences in your past led you to create the site, just the concept for iGuidez?

P1030017

Phillips: Well, as I have said, I have traveled a lot. I am interested in the history, but not interested in history for history’s sake. And I am more of a–I suppose you could say–history in a social context, and that when I go around to see things, I want to know what was the artist thinking when they created something, or what was the designer or architect thinking when they designed a building or such. So it kind of evolved initially from a point of view of traveling somewhere and letting other people know what’s there. The most difficult thing about iGuidez that it took me a couple of years to create is how do you put so much information about one thing on a website, on a web page. So, it’s taken a year, two years to develop that method. And as I said, it all comes from traveling.

Guin: Well, were you a web designer in a previous life? Is that what you do professionally? Are you a tech person?

Phillips: I am actually an aircraft engineer, but that had nothing to do with the website itself. No, I just picked up basic HTML code as I began three, four years ago and various different websites. But then as it got more complicated and because it was video, I then had to employ certain people along the way. So the website now, I pay somebody to develop it to my ideas and designs. It’s a very expensive option. I mean, I wish I could do it myself because I would save a lot of money. I am only doing it because I can’t sit down and learn the website coding and also be out and making videos because it just doesn’t go. A lot of people have always said to me, “Why don’t you learn the coding then?” But then of course, who would be making the videos?

Guin: Exactly. And we know that the web is about the content, it’s not so much the look of the site, although good design is important, but there are some just very basic blogs that are very, very popular using the standard default WordPress template. It is about the content. What’s your experience with videography? Is it something you have done professionally in the past or is it something you have taken up as a professional hobby?

Phillips: Actually no. I have had no experience whatsoever in videography or photography or any of that at all … Having lived in Italy for four and a half years, in the world’s center of art, it’s hard to describe. You can’t write about art. You just can’t. It doesn’t translate as well, no matter how good a writer you are. So you have to show photographs; you have to show images, you know? So again, it was just playing around with video and thinking. Video is also much quicker. You put one photograph up of a piece of art and that’s it. Now you have to say something; write something about it. Whereas if you use a video, you can take much more art in and you can talk about it at the same time. So you are letting the images speak for themselves. So it was really just trial and error.

Guin: OK, well, you’ve got your blog established and your website, and they look great and they are very informative. But have you branched out to other forms of social media and using the web tools to communicate with your audience as well?

Phillips: Yes, I use Twitter as much as I can. I did have Facebook account a while ago, but I gave it up because you have your normal email and then you have the social media and then you have say the blog and the website, and it just gets so complicated and then you lose track of everything. I had to streamline everything. So I just use my blog on the website and Twitter as I can.

Guin: OK. Well, what does Twitter do for you as far as being able to promote your site and communicate with people that are interested in your blog?

Phillips: Well actually, that is a very good question. I asked myself that question when Twitter was all the go many months ago. I looked at it several times and I couldn’t think how am I going to use it because I’m not one of these people that I want to blog about me or my experiences. I wanted to use it for my website and I couldn’t figure out how. And then it just occurred to me one day: “I know what I’ll do, every time that I see something interesting or I make an interesting video or I add something to my blog, I can then update it on Twitter.” I do and sometimes it catches on. Sometimes it can be very useful, not always of course. And plus, the benefit of Twitter, as you have realized yourself, it is very quick. You just say what you have to say and press return and it goes out to everybody and that’s it. You don’t have to think about it, you don’t have to, like a blog, you don’t have to sit down and concentrate what you’re going to write or what you’re going to do. You just get on with it, and that’s again the advantage of it.

Guin: I am sure you spend some time on the Internet using resources on the web other than just your site or something directly related to it. What sites do you most enjoy?

Phillips: Well, I really enjoy TechCrunch. And I use a few similar sites. One called NI Tech Blog, which is a local one in Belfast. What I use them for is just to keep abreast of any announcements or anything that comes up similar to my website … just to know what technology comes online, or who’s moving or who’s doing what on the travel industry. And sometimes I do contact people through those websites to ask for collaboration and things like that.

At the beginning when I started of a couple years ago when I was getting more into the research and the information, I used to use Wikipedia a lot, but then I suddenly realized it has a very very short life span because there’s not a lot on Wikipedia with regards to specific information on local things. Now if you are talking about famous landmarks or points of interest, there is plenty. But not on local things. … There is one local website at home, the historian website that occasionally I use if I am back home and I am researching information.

Guin: As you demonstrate, there are different types of heritage sites and heritage blogs, and there can be photo blogs and there can be video blogs as well, and I’m amazed at all the content that you’ve got on your site. How long has it been in existence?

Phillips: Just over three years. I kind of kicked in again about travel. It was travel-oriented. And then in the last year, year and a half, it got really concentrated with information in that I want to show the information that I’ve researched about the particular subject that I happen to be videoing. That’s where I’m at today.

Guin: OK, well, explain how the site works. Is there anyway that people who enjoy your site and kind of connect to your mission can help you create more content for the site?

Phillips: Oh yes, definitely … One of the points of this website is to create a model. Again, if I hark back to that model of Wikipedia, I want to try to create some way so that I have the model to show other people how to do this, and of course, yes, I’d love people to copy what I’m doing. Again, just as in Wikipedia, there are rules and regulations. There is no point in just going around and videoing something and then talking about it, because that may not make a lot of sense. So I am looking to collaborate with people, and I am contacting travel organizations and travel websites and various technology companies even to explore ways how to develop this further. Not just from my point of view, but also in trying to get other people involved. So certainly, I mean, that’s an open question. Yes, I would love help because as much as I’d love to do everything myself, I can’t.

Guin: I understand completely. OK, then let’s use for example, let’s say there is a small Main Street organization here in the US, and they want to do some video or landmark documentaries on their particular town. Do you have any pointers for actually undertaking a project like that?

Phillips: Yes I do. In fact I occasionally have a blueprint of instructions for how to do it. For example, the videoing is not a difficult thing to learn how to do. And what I mean by that is, where do you start when you go into a room to video? Now I can explain that very easily. You just say: start at the entrance and you walk around in a clockwise direction or a counterclockwise, it doesn’t matter, and video as much as you can. So there are basic things like that you can explain with video. The much more difficult thing to explain is how do you get the information? Where do you get the information? Because if it is quite a popular thing or a famous landmark then it is not a problem. There is plenty of information out there, and even, for example, guide books, local guidebooks can even tell you as much as you need to know. But it’s things that aren’t well known that are probably even more historic; that have more value in a historic sense, and it’s trying to integrate that information onto the video in a way that makes sense.

Guin: Alright, well, if someone is interested in doing this, is there a place on your website they can go for more information or can they contact you?

Phillips: They certainly can. If they contact me, I’ll be happy to collaborate with anybody on this theme. I will certainly help anybody as much as I can because it’s in everybody’s interest to develop this, not just mine of course.

Guin: Tell us what your grand vision is for the future of this site, either in the next year or going into the long term. What do you hope for?

Phillips: Well … this is my calling, I think. It certainly feels like it. Although, with most personal missions, they never pay. So, I need something for that to change because it has taken everything off me. So I need some sort of commercial backing to help me along. I am trying to work with certain city councils in Belfast and also in Bologna because I have those two cities are very well covered. One other ambitious task at the moment is that I have made contact with the tourist board in Rome quite a few months ago, and they were very enthusiastic about my project because, I have covered Bologna (15:53) so much now and I have so much content on Bologna that I can’t really do much more. So I want to expand to the likes of Rome where I can actually meet more tourists myself when I’m on the street and they have taken us on board and have now passed it on to one of the government ministers.

Guin: Where are you from? I’m not recognizing an Italian accent there.

Phillips: Oh no, definitely, Belfast.

Guin: Do you consider Bologna your home base?

Phillips: I use Bologna as a model to create my video guides, and then of course I copied that over to Belfast every time I went home. So now that I have completed my mission there in Bologna, I need to move somewhere where it will have a greater significance and that will be the likes of Rome or in fact, it could be any big, any major city, but I know the Italian way now. I like the culture there obviously, and the standard of life, so I am happy to just to move to another city.

Guin: Well, is there anything else that you need to say about iGuidez or do you have any other web endeavors that you’re pursuing?

Phillips: God, you know, this is enough at the moment. Let me move forward with this before I go on to another one.

Guin: Alright, you kind of actually, if you have been doing it three years, you kind of got in it about the time that social media was just hitting. It is kind of the dawn of the revolution so to speak. So a lot of these social media tools weren’t even in existence then.

Phillips: Exactly. In fact, I was one, if not the first, to start making video guides. I draw a lot of inspiration from Wikipedia; drew a lot of inspiration from that then and thinking, there’s a lot of people collaborating together on knowledge. And I thought, it took me a while to think, well how could I create something that could be also equally valuable to somebody, you know? So again, that is what I want to do as well to draw upon other people’s experience and knowledge and try to put them all onto one database, so that other people can actually learn from it and actually see and experience it more. Whereas Wikipedia is text-based, not to devalue it in any sense or criticize it, it is just text. And how do you move that on to the 21st century? And that is what I think video is all about.

Guin: Well most people are visual. There have been a lot of studies about that and especially in today’s world with all of the digital distractions, that’s the only way to really capture the imaginations of anyone, but especially the younger folks. And those are the ones that we need to instill the heritage values into.

Phillips: That’s right. And there was even just a last point: there was an article written by the Times, the Sunday Times here in London about six months ago. In fact, I even have it quoted it on my website in the about page, and it says that the journalists find that everyone appreciates that Google is the number one search engine, but what few people expected was that YouTube became the second biggest search engine. And what that translates as that people are looking for videos for information now. They are looking into video websites for actual information, and that’s an extremely powerful thing if you think about it. Which means that anybody who actually has relevant information in a video, that someday is going to be worth a lot.

Guin: Alright, well, I think I am going to go ahead and wrap it up. It was a pleasure to talk to you.

Phillips: And to you as well.

Guin: And that was Michael Phillips of the heritage travel site, iGuidez. Now if you would like to learn more about Michael and iGuidez, you can check out our shownotes site. That’s Voicesofthepast.org. You can find a transcript of this interview. While you are there, check out our 2.0 tips for how to use social media to advance heritage in your part of the world. Until next time, this is Jeff Guin for Voices of the Past, and we’ll see you online.

Visiting Trafalgar Square & The Impromptu Review: “That Hamilton Woman”

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I’m not a war buff, but I’ve always had a fascination with the story of Horatio Nelson and the events surrounding the Battle of Trafalgar. There are so few heroes left to history, and Nelson is one legend that persists beyond his highly public personal affairs. This trip to Trafalgar Square was a bit of an homage to that legacy.

I mention That Hamilton Woman in this video. Featuring Laurence Oliver as Nelson and Vivien Leigh as Emma Lady Hamilton, it’s an old favorite of mine. It was a favorite of Winston Churchill too, who reportedly saw it over 100 times.

The story centers on Emma Hamilton, a woman of unfortunate upbringing who uses her beauty and charm to marry into high society. Along the way, she and Nelson fall in love and maintain their relationship against great odds (like being married to other people!) to become England’s most famous couple.

Vivien Leigh filmed this role three years after her turn as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind. She is noticeably less convincing in this role, which spans Lady Hamilton’s time as a fresh young beauty just entering society to an impoverished middle-age drunkard, dying of liver failure. Then again, every work in her long-running career was doomed to mope in the shadows cast by her Oscar-winning bookend roles of Scarlett and Blanche DuBois.

Olivier approaches the role with his usual magnificence. He rides the line between heroic dignity and desperate self-effacement in his relationship with Hamilton. At the time, Olivier and Leigh were mirroring these roles in real life as a couple who had a famous affair and divorced others to be together.

In both realms, these were people who knew what they wanted and transparently pursued it. Maybe it’s the autobiographical element that is so compelling.

The story itself was made for Hollywood, but perhaps a bit too ambitious for a standard cinema feature. Too many lives, years, and tragedies whiz by for adequate treatment or comprehension. One wonders how differently the story would be portrayed in the hands of someone like David O. Selznick.

Still, for someone who likes classic film and skilled acting, That Hamilton Woman is well worth adding to your movie queue.

Arrival at Heathrow

I must admit, nine hours of attempted sleep on an airplane tends to dampen one’s excitement about travel. But the ride was uneventful and the flight was light enough that most of us had two or more seats to rest on. Don’t think I’ve ever been on a flight that provided breakfast and dinner, three drink runs, AND blankets, pillows and headphones that they encourage you to keep.

Heathrow is a little wild an really, really dirty. Trash is all over the floor. Except in the bathroom, which is pristine. The immigration line was a mile long and I’ve learned a valuable travel tip: the less information you volunteer about your trip, the better your experience will be with the immigration officer. He asked everything but the color of my toenails: “Yes, Future of Web Design is a real conference. Yes I can prove it. Yes I’m married. No, I’m staying with Nadina because she’s an old friend, not because I’m having an affair.”

Nadina said to buy an oyster card and take the tube to Knightsbridge. Except there’s no one at the ticket booth(?)!

Taking off for London

At the Houston airport, waiting to board the flight to Heathrow. With the monthlong saga of the board report and meeting over, I am finally allowing myself to feel some excitement about the trip. One track mind, that’s me.

Traffic here and in Shreveport is as light as I’ve seen in a long time. On the flight from Shreveport, it was me and about ten other guys. We all had to sit in the back because there was not enough luggage to balance the plane’s weight. The FEMALE captain joked they probably wouldn’t have had that problem if 11 women had been on the flight instead.

No travel problems at all. Just that peaceful, easy feeling.

I just bought two travel guides: First was Frommer’s guide to London because it had a fold-out map. Then I ran across Rick Steve’s London 2008. I’ve been a Ricknik since my early twenties, when I’d watch his show and dream about being a world traveler. His guides are for folks who want to immerse themselves in the culture. Unfortunately, I don’t have much time here, so the purchase was largely symbolic.

Already overwhelmed, but looking forward to the new experiences.