Historian Sheila Willis wants to add more than 300 Calgary and southern Alberta locations to an app first launched in 2017 that guides people to lesser-known provincial tourism and heritage sites.
The 2017 beta version of the History Check app collated information on Northern Alberta sites to start, and in June 2019 it was expanded to the entire province.
“It really grew a life of its own,” said Willis.
The launch of a beta version was done with limited funding and it was an opportunity to iron out kinks, solicit feedback and build out areas for further growth in specific sectors.
Willis said they’re now on a campaign to get the word out that the app is open for more submissions. She’ll be in Calgary hosting an open gathering for individuals, businesses, non-profit groups so they can see the opportunity to provide content.
“This thing is going to grow organically for years, we know that,” Willis said.
“There’s always going to be new places discovered, new stories.”
The app’s been split into different sections and built out to help people navigate to areas of specific interest – museums, heritage sites, parks, recreation.
Willis first started gathering the information as a tourism and heritage project in Northern Alberta. Municipalities (she now has 21 signed up) use their GIS and GPS information to pinpoint unique local sites that include descriptions and photos.
They even include places people can access potable water and where to discard garbage – especially in more remote locations.
“It gets right down to the nitty-gritty that you’re going to need to explore Alberta,” Willis said.
Can’t you get this information from Google Maps?
Willis said when you start working with rural locations in Alberta and the smaller historical societies, they don’t have the time, money, technical know-how and resources to get the information on to Google.
“Many of them are volunteers. Many of them don’t have the technology to even know how to go and mark their stuff on Google Maps,” she said.
Instead, Willis gets sent the information and they upload it to their app. Along with the historic or geographic site information, they’re often sent information on places to dine and other local amenities.
Anyone’s invited to attend the History Buffs Meet and Greet pub gathering Jan. 20 at Legend 7 Brewing, 4025 – 9 Street SE beginning at 4 p.m. Visit their Facebook page for more information.