Uncommonwealth: You can learn a lot from the new Kentucky Historical Society app

ctruman@herald-leader.comAugust 12, 2012 

  • apps worth having

    ■ The Kentucky history app is available through the app store at Google Play or iTunes and is free. If you don't have a smartphone, try History.ky.gov on a computer for information on historical markers and the stories behind them.

    ■ Travel KY from Kentucky Monthly magazine is available through the app stores on a smart phone and is free. The app is being upgraded during the next month.

    ■ LexWalk from the Convention and Visitors bureau is available through the app stores on a smartphone and is free.

Next time you're idly playing with your smartphone, you have something more enlightening to do than fret about your angry birds.

The Kentucky Historical Society is launching a free app Thursday that will show you historical points of interests and bits of information on the Civil War. The War of 1812 is next up to be added to the app, and after that the possibilities are as endless as history.

I test-drove the site last week. Picking a pin in the north of downtown Lexington, I found a historical marker for Dr. Robert Peter, whose daughter, Frances, "was a unique chronicler of Civil War Lexington (and) describes life on the Kentucky home front ... (and) records military news with a compelling perspective."

A bit to the southwest, clicking a pin leads you to Perryville's Henry P. Bottom, a farmer and justice of the peace "whose home was caught in the crossfire of Kentucky's largest battle."

"After the fight, Bottom's house became a field hospital. According to one eyewitness, a pile of amputated arms and legs, 'some with shoes on, others with socks,' stood 'four or five feet high' in one corner of the yard."

A click on a Frankfort pin yields a recounting of the installation of Richards Hawes as Kentucky's second Confederate governor at the Old State Capitol in Frankfort in 1862.

By this point I was hooked and started clicking pins all over the state. This is so much better than Angry Birds or Talking Tom Cat.

If you don't have a smartphone, you can get much the same experience at Explorekyhistory.ky.gov.

"We think this is going to be a great way to do a walking tour of Louisville, a walking tour of Lexington," said Sally Warfield, digital media specialist at the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History in Frankfort. "It's using a very simple platform that's very intuitive. You touch a pin, and up comes the story. You start seeing that all these things tie together."

Some other Kentucky apps include Travel KY from Kentucky Monthly magazine and Lexwalk from the Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau. Both are free.

From the Travel KY app I found an Abraham Lincoln-related walking tour of Lexington starting at the Lexington Public Library and Phoenix Park.

Tours are available for other areas of the state, including Eastern Kentucky, Northern Kentucky and south-central Kentucky.

LexWalk's tour starts at Triangle Park and includes stops at the Mary Todd Lincoln House and Christ Church Cathedral. It also includes audio and video.

"There are so many stories that have appeal to the commonwealth," said Warfield of the Kentucky History Museum.

And the future is limited only by the scope of Kentucky history.

Said Warfield: "We already have our Civil Rights oral history program that is online and live, and we can easily do that."

Cheryl Truman: (859) 231-3202. Twitter: @CherylTruman.

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