History goes digital

A new app brings the 1921 Tulsa Race Riots to the fingertips of locals and visitors.



Michelle Place, executive director of the Tulsa Historical Society; Daniel Mooney, CEO of Moomat; and Steve Rice, owner of Map Ink, are collaborating to release an app that explores commonalities in Tulsa’s art and art deco architecture. The app will be available this fall.

Evan Taylor

Two years ago, when the Tulsa Historical Society and Museum updated its long-term plans, education and access to information were top priorities. 

And the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot was the first story that needed to be told, says Executive Director Michelle Place.

“As Race Riot survivors began to pass away, we saw a surge in inquiries,” she says. “Teachers contacted us for curriculum, or grad students wanted information for their dissertations; but they would have to travel to Tulsa to review our materials.”

In response, the historical society partnered with Tulsa software developer Daniel Mooney for use of his trademark program, CultureScout, to create the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot iPad app.

“We wanted to make available everything in our archives about the race riot and hold nothing back,” Place says. 

The interactive program provides reproduced photographs and newspaper clippings collected by THS. Users simply click through the documents to discover connections between Tulsa and historical events or people. 

They can do so when visiting a special kiosk at the museum or by purchasing an app. The price is $9.99, but a copy of the app is free to all educators and educational institutions, thanks to support from an anonymous foundation.

Place says data will continue to be added to the app with the help of generous outside sources. 

“If people will believe in our project and entrust us with their letters and photographs, we can make even more information available,” she says.

Tulsans aren’t the only ones using the app. The CultureScout software is an invaluable tool for educators, students and historians about how the Tulsa Race Riot relates to African American history globally. The app is used for research in films and exhibits at the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. 

“We’re now able to piece together the people, places and events surrounding the race riot,” Place says. “We don’t know of any other similar apps. This program is straight out of Tulsa, and the connections truly are infinite.”

Next, Mooney is fine-tuning a Tulsa art app as an extension of the historical society’s Tulsa Art Deco driving and walking tour. In collaboration with Oklahoma mapmaker Steve Rice, CultureScout will offer the app for exploring commonalities in Tulsa’s art and art deco architecture. A quick search for a specific Riverside Park sculpture will allow people to discover whether similar statues exist in Tulsa or whether the same artist designed sculptures elsewhere in the world. The Tulsa Art & Art Deco app’s release date is set for later this fall.

“We hope to raise a generation of students who are confident using this technology, so other organizations and museums will implement it, too,” Place says. “Imagine how they will be able to connect the dots and dig deeper into history.”

The historical society also has hosted several training sessions for local teachers and administrators to become acquainted with the new technology. Director of Education Neal Pascoe says the interactive apps are an effective teaching tool for Tulsa Public Schools, and he encourages all educators to make use of the historical society’s customized resources.

“With the aspect of history, so much of instruction is based on primary sources and self-led exploration,” he says. “These apps are an opportunity to interact with the software and apply technology in the classroom.”

 

Film highlights Tulsa history

Beyond the iPad, a fresh take on Tulsa history also is available this month on Rogers State University Public Television. The Tulsa Historical Society recently collaborated with local filmmaker Kirkpatrick & Kinslow Productions to produce “Boomtown: An American Journey.” The 48-minute documentary features interviews from influential Tulsans about the city and the importance of studying history. From the Trail of Tears to the 1921 Race Riot and the city’s famous oil booms and busts, the film highlights historical elements that define Tulsa and its people. Check local listings for air dates and times.

 

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