Florida Stories puts state’s history in the palm of your hand
By Janet Scherberger
Featured image above: Evening on Seventh Avenue in Tampa’s historic Ybor City, which is among the 36 hour-long tours on Florida Humanities free Florida Stories walking tour app.
Fort Pierce’s Sunrise Theatre, built for vaudeville shows in 1923. The Octagon House, a central feature of the Chautauqua Campus that drew New Yorkers interested in education to Defuniak Springs in the 1880s. A tamarind grove in Islamorada that shelters the remains of settlements from the 1820s.
These are just a few of the hundreds of historical sites you’ll find on the Florida Stories free walking tours app developed by Florida Humanities.
From Key West to Fernandina Beach to Pensacola, the 36 tours included on the app provide a perfect way to experience your state during a weekend getaway, a family summer vacation or from the comfort of your back porch.
Each tour is an hour long with at least 10 stops and three to six minutes of history at each stop. Photos augment the experience.
The app was launched in 2015 with a tour of Spanish Colonial St. Augustine, with funds that were provided by the state to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Ponce de Leon’s arrival on the peninsula.
Additional tours using the same platform were created through a competitive grant process.
Developing each tour was a six-month process that included script writing, image collection, development of graphics, gathering GPS coordinates, writing descriptions for each tour stop, and extensive testing to make sure the directions are accurate and easy to follow and that images match the narration.
“It’s quite the process,” says Lisa Lennox, Digital Media and Programs Manager for Florida Humanities.
Scholars assisted grant recipients – which have included historical societies, preservation groups, travel development councils, museums, municipalities, and libraries – with research and scripts, and Gary Mormino, professor emeritus of Florida Studies at the University of South Florida, reviewed them. Once approved, professional actors and broadcasters recorded the narration in a studio.
The end result is an opportunity to explore the past through the present, either at home or step-by-step in Florida’s unique small towns and cities.
“Our mission at Florida Humanities is to share the history and culture of our great state through story-telling so Floridians and visitors can better understand our diverse communities,” Lennox says. “I don’t think there’s an easier or more engaging way to do that. Florida Stories is Florida history and culture in the palm of your hand.”
The free walking tour app can be downloaded for all iOS and Android devices at FLStories.org or viewed online at FloridaStories.Oncell.com.
Janet Scherberger, Communications Consultant
This article originally appeared in the Summer 2021 Issue of FORUM Magazine. Visit our collection at the USFSP Digital Archive by clicking here.
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