Minnesota State Arts Board

Designing a digital experience for history lovers
that helps them touch the past.

This project is currently in process.

The Situation

The Minnesota State Arts Board believes that the arts are an essential part of a vibrant society. Their mission is to help Minnesotans weave art into everyday life by making it possible for every citizen to engage in the arts as either an artist or participant.

Annual Artist Initiative Grants support this mission by funding artist-initiated projects that support its goals and mission. In order to receive funding, a rigorous application process requires artists to write a grant that identifies who their audience is and how they will engage them with the work.

The Problem

As a recipient of the grant, I proposed to create a walking tour that would introduce history lovers to locations referenced in my project, which is base on a journal written in 1921.

Deep Dive
Comparative Analysis
Usability Study
High Fidelity Prototypes
Interactive Prototypes

“When I look at old photographs, I always want to see more. I want to see behind the buildings, to see different angles…I want to be an investigator.”

— User

Talking to history buffs

• Bad walking tours can feel like performing a checklist and don’t let participants engage in the surroundings they are moving through.

• Enjoyable walking tours let participants engage in the process of exploring history.
They want experiences like tours to give them them the chance to do that.


How could I create an immersive digital experience that helps participants explore the physical world at their own pace and uncover things as they go?


My solution is walking tour app that uses locations from the graphic novel as a way to frame an exploratory experience for people. It is organized by general locations that ask participants to arrive at a start point but lets them uncover their own path from there.


Once they chose a point to investigate, they start walking in that direction. Here the participant chose to explore a restaurant on 7th Street that is now occupied by the Park and Shop. Once she arrives, she can interact with the location in a number of different ways. She can see a drawing overlay that shows what the building looked like in 1921. Choose to either listen to audio narration or read about the location. Look at photographs or listen to related sound artifacts. All of these options are designed to let the participant uncover the past themselves, which is what my research showed was most valuable.

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“Flexibility is the best part about the most successful self guided tours—they need to be meandering and improvisational and leave room for things to happen.”

“The fun of walking around is really the experience of being in the world and finding or looking at things…it’s hard to tell people what they should be doing—it kind of defeats the point of walking around.”