To love what you do and feel that it matters—how could anything be more fun?

—Katharine Graham
Project Blog:
Mobile Black History Project
Imagine pointing your mobile phone at a Washington, D.C., landmark and reading about its relevance in African-American history. Layering data over real life is at the center of the emerging field of augmented reality, and this mobile phone application will bring black history to the forefront, starting with historic sites in Washington, D.C. Retha Hill, a recent Knight News Challenge winner and director of the New Media Innovation Lab at Arizona State University, will run the project.

Getting There: Mobile Black History App Aims for February Release

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

With our planned launch in time for Black History Month in February just around the corner, we’re down to nail-biting time here.

I’ve accumulated content about historical sites for six cities, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Phoenix, Richmond, Philadelphia and Boston. With the help of freelancers, whom I’m paying $1 per location they add, we’ll also have content for Charleston and Nashville. I’m excited to report that we are working with one of our fellow New Media Women Entrepreneurs awardees, NolaVie, to produce content for New Orleans.

Our original goal was to get both the iPhone app and the Layar version (for any smart phone user) up and running by the end of January. As predicted, our biggest delay was with development fixes.

Good news to report: The Layar app is ready to use! Just download the Layar browser on any smart phone and then search for Black History. The native iPhone app is still in testing and our work continues on a bug. Developers are still working on the augmented reality component. There may still be a slight delay after we submit the app to Apple for inclusion in the iTunes Store, just as there is for every app, so keep your fingers crossed.

On the sponsorship side, I’ve been reluctant to approach sponsors full force without a working prototype to show people. But of course, this remains my biggest concern. I want this to be a sustainable venture that will allow us to continue to develop the content beyond black history. Ideally, we’ll find a main national sponsor for the iPhone app. As a secondary stream, we’ll look to co-brand with tourism bureaus or local news providers in various cities. I’d like to figure out a relationship with the National Park Service to integrate content from its Freedom Trail.

In the meantime, we’re pressing ahead as February quickly approaches.

   • Posted by Retha Hill on 01/25 at 03:46 PM

Who's Blogging


Retha Hill is the Director of the New Media Innovation Lab and a Professor of Practice at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Hill joined the Cronkite faculty in the summer of 2007 after nearly eight years at BET.

Click for full bio.