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Work on new historic marker app begins at PCHS

William Paine/SWT
Eleventh grade PCHS drama student Ethan Sealander records what’s written on an historical marker for a new APP seated by the Historical Resources Department of Virginia.

By WILLIAM PAINE

william.paine@southwesttimes.com

Students and faculty at Pulaski County High School are participating in a new program for the Historical Resources Department of Virginia.

Under the direction of Jim Hare, the state’s Department of Historical Resources developed a smartphone app that is designed to signal drivers as they pass historical markers and then have the message on the marker read aloud. In this way, drivers and passengers can hear about local historical markers and listen to what happened nearby.

“It’s just like having a little radio station that will read the little markers as you drive by,” said Hare. “We know people are leading busy lives and it’s hard to stop and read them every time you might want to. So this will hopefully bring history more into the 21st century for the rest of us.”

The idea to involve Pulaski County High School came to Carroll Smith, Chair of Pulaski County’s American Evolution Committee, when Hare came to the county earlier this year.

“Jim visited us last year when we unveiled some markers for world war II and he talked to us about this app,” Smith explained. “It thought it would be good to get our students involved. Jim thought it was a great idea. We decided we would be the guinea pigs here and talked to Jeff McCoy and he was on board. Jim came down and talked with him and we got things set up so we’re going to be the first in the state to do this.”

“It’s a great honor for us,” said PCHS drama teacher Jeff McCoy. “Carol Smith of American Evolution Society contacted us to be the first group because she said, ‘You’re known all over the state for your fine theatrical productions and for your state championships,’ and so the first ones will be recorded in Pulaski County.”

Eleven students in PCHS’s Advanced Theater Arts class will begin recording what’s written on the historic markers but more will drama students will be involved by the project’s finish.

The drama student’s voices will be recorded in the school’s television studio in the Career and Technical Education pod.

“Whenever Mr. McCoy asks, we always say yes because it’s always something good and something interesting,” said PCHS video production instructor Greg Hawks. “He asked if we would be a part of this and we said we’d be happy to supply technical support in our facility and get the files to whoever needs them in whatever format they need. So we’re glad to do it.”

“I was amazed to see this facility when we got here a couple of months ago,” Hare enthused. “Carroll said we’d love to do it and I expected we’d be running around to find maybe a TV station or community college that would have these kinds of facilities and wow, they’ve got it right here at the high school! So it was great.”

The assignment includes reading and recording the 70 plus historical road markers on what’s known as the “Crooked Road,” which extends from Bristol to Pulaski and beyond.

“The kids are excited about this as well because people will recognize them as being the voice of mile marker number 743 or whatever it happens to be,” said McCoy.

From the onset, Hare wanted to use students in the state to perform this historical task.

“We thought, let’s work with students so we can allow them to learn their local history and do some other things involving current technology, such as building this app,” said Hare. “We hope it will lead to different career paths for them and open up some avenues and give them some ideas as to what they might be interested in doing down the road.”

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