Welsh digital storytelling app to be presented at San Francisco expo

Traces, a bilingual storytelling app that takes you on a journey around the St Fagans National Museum of History, is to be presented in San Francisco this month.

Alison John and Dr Jenny Kidd will travel to the US to demo their app at the Digital Heritage Expo in San Francisco between October 26th and 30th. It’s a global event on digital technology for documenting, conserving and sharing heritage.

In 2016, Alison and Jenny created the app after receiving funding from the ESRC – which is a collaboration between National Museum Wales, Yellobrick and Cardiff University.

They describe Traces as a cross between an immersive storytelling experience, meditation app and mobile game. It uses audio and stories curated from archives to guide visitors around the museum.

Visitors taking part in the experience just need to download a free mobile app and bring headphones before they arrive at the site. There’s the option to use the software solo or with a partner.

So far, more than 1000 people have downloaded the app. One user said:  “At points, I felt happy, I felt sad and self-reflective. But again, going back to the stones, I was like a kid again.

“That kind of really innocent jumping on cracks. I didn’t care what anyone was thinking, so that was a fun side of it as well. It was an array of emotions.”

Over the past few months, Alison and Jenny have travelled to countries such as Norway and Denmark to show off the app. They’ve also presented it in London, Aberystwyth, Newcastle, Salford, Telford and Liverpool.

Alison John, a producer at Yellobrick, said: “Traces has been a fantastic project to work on and a great opportunity to find new ways to engage audiences with heritage sites and connect them to the space in a more emotional way through storytelling and playful interactions”.

Dr. Jenny Kidd, senior lecturer in journalism at Cardiff University, said: “Traces has allowed us to explore a number of important questions relating to digital heritage: what can immersive heritage do, and what can’t it do? What happens when truth and fiction collide in digital heritage work?

“How do visitors respond when invited to do things differently? We look forward to presenting findings from participant research on these timely themes.”