Monday, March 27, 2023

Making 'Historik'

Staff Writer | December 17, 2022 1:08 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — The way Chris Whalen sees it, museums can only share about 5% of their history with the general public at any given time, which means about 95% of that history is in storage.

He wants to free it through "Historik."

His mobile app, in a nutshell, puts history on the screen of your cellphone.

It's something Whalen, of Coeur d'Alene, began working on about 10 years ago and recently became available.

"I was trying to figure out, 'how do we connect people with history anywhere in the world through one solution,'" he said.

Fast forward to today.

Whalen defines it simply as this:

"Historik is a technology company that is developing tools to empower communities to share their history with the world."

Britt Thurman, executive director of the Museum of North Idaho, says it means history has a chance to get the attention of younger generations.

She said the museum has 36,000 digitized photographs, but no avenue to share them with the community.

Now, they do, which is key to the future of the museum.

"I would say that our photos are one of our biggest strengths," Thurman said. "And for the most part, they're just in a filing cabinet unless you happen to come in and you want to look at them. So it gives us great access and engagement with the community ultimately, just to meet our mission of illuminating our local history."

Historik can be downloaded, free, on an IOS operating system.

Currently, Historik has 65 stories and many pictures covering a four-block area in downtown Coeur d'Alene.

Blackwell Park, Coeur d'Alene Brewery, the USO Club, Playland Pier and the Red Collar Line are recommended history it offers now.

Users can also explore the Wilma Theater V.W. Sanders Building and Red Collar Line via Historik's augmented reality, a combination of real and virtual worlds, to recreate lost historic points at their origin in 3D.

Users can point their device where the history once stood and see the original computer-generated model in real-time while walking around the object.

"I hit the AR button and then I can place the Idaho steamboat that we've built a 3D model for, and I can go and look at every detail of the Idaho steamboat," Whalen said.

So you don't just read about history, you experience it.

"What it does is, it takes all the incredible history that the museum has, and allows them then to take it outside the four walls and allow people to connect with history," Whalen said.

It also benefits museums because it brings awareness of what they do and offer, creating exposure and drawing people inside their doors.

That's why Museum of North Idaho partnered with Historik about a year ago.

"There's so many advantages for us, for our community to be able to understand our history more, so they care about it more, so they preserve our history," she said.

Thurman said Historik gives users the opportunity to quickly access historical information, which gives them a doorway to the stories, people and places that make the area what it is today.

"They can kind of ground themselves a little bit more in our heritage, and what Coeur d'Alene's sense of place is," she said.

As well, public relations is key for the Museum of North Idaho, which is raising money to move into a new, bigger home at McEuen Park.

"We've been around for 54 years, but we've been small for 52 of those years," Thurman said. "And right now, we're growing so rapidly and we're just trying to get our message out there, be able to meet our mission more, broaden our audience, get more people involved in what we're doing."

Historik can help.

"This is our opportunity to be able to do that," she said.

Whalen said about 1,000 people have downloaded the app to an IOS system.

"The Android app, we're still working on," Whalen said. "We're going to be hopefully launching that by the end of this year."

Historik has filters so users can set it to their areas of interest.

Whalen is in talks with several states about using Historik.

The opportunities are many. Museums could purpose it for guided tours and a source of revenue. City agencies could use it to put history of their areas at the fingertips of locals and visitors.

Historik, Whalen said, connects today and yesterday.

"Our goal is to try to connect people with history, so people don't pass by history and not know what's near them," he said.

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