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Monday, October 3, 2016

Explore Big

My colleagues at the Montana Historical Society have been working hard--and that work has paid off. We are proud to present ExploreBig, a website and mobile app which supports the discovery of the built environment related to Montana history.

The website and mobile app draw on information from over 1500 sites in Montana with historic markers. Marker text is illustrated with images, while sites or regions are marked on a responsive map.

Although many sites in Montana are of historic or architectural significance, the sites marked with a historical marker have been fully researched, nominated for inclusion on the National Register, and physically marked with a descriptive sign. These historical markers become a story on ExploreBig which is linked by a tour to other stories.

Development of tours involves reviewing the National Register form for each story, illustrating the stories with relevant photographs, and marking the site’s coordinates on a GIS-supported map. The digitized historical photographs, maps, brochures, or drawings demonstrate the change of an environment and expand understanding of a place, while the map directs travelers to the site or in special cases a nearby city. The result is a website and a mobile app which allows you to effectively explore the built environment on a walking, driving, or armchair tour of the state.

In this first phase of website development, the MHS is connecting travelers to the broad themes which connect the disparate regions of the state. Early Montana, Mining, Railroads, Homesteading, and Tourism are just a few of the big themes in Montana history for which a tour is being developed.  
The marker text was developed by the Montana National Register Sign Program, which is funded through an allocated portion of the Montana Accommodations Tax (“bed” tax).

(1)    EASY TO USE AND FREE
The URL for ExploreBig is explorebig.org and the mobile app is available for Android and iOS devices through Google Play and the Apple App Store.

In keeping with the mission of the MHS to provide access to Montana's historical resources, the site is free to Internet users worldwide. No fees or subscriptions are required.

(2)    COMMUNITY CONTRIBUTIONSThe Montana Historical Society will continue to add thematic tours to the site in order to link the broad themes of the state’s history. In the next phase of project development, local organizations—museums, libraries, historical societies—will be invited to contribute digitized images for districts and buildings in order to expand tours for local audiences. Interested organizations may check our community contribution guide at http://mhs.mt.gov/research/online/explorebig or contact mhsdigital@mt.gov to share ideas or information about the resource.

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