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Students help history come alive at Washington Place

Posted on Jul 29, 2019 in Capitol Connection, Featured

First Lady's Corner imageThe rich history and personal stories connected to Washington Place — the home of Queen Lili‘uokalani, Hawai‘i’s last reigning monarch, and several governors — will come alive in a new 21st century way starting this month. An app that can be downloaded on SmartPhones and iPads will help people interact with history in the palms of their hands.

The new “augmented reality” technology and a website describing “The Washington Place Experience” were developed by UH-West O‘ahu’s creative media students in partnership with the Washington Place staff. The new app enables people to scan select photos on a tour and listen to stories and personal memories of the queen and past governors.

UH West O'ahu's creative media team, with Mrs. Ige and Cynthia Engle (far left), has added 'augmented reality' to Washington Place.

UH West O’ahu’s creative media team, with Mrs. Ige and Cynthia Engle (far left), has added ‘augmented reality’ to Washington Place.

“This is such a spectacular home,” said first lady Dawn Amano-Ige. “We want to share its stories with the community. We have our wonderful docents still doing traditional tours, but now we have a special app that people can use to ‘augment’ or enhance their own self-guided tour as they walk through the home.” A new website at provides background on Washington Place, new projects and visitor information. On the website, people can reserve a time for the Thursday morning, docent-led tours, or an augmented reality tour by contacting [email protected].

Mrs. Ige and Washington Place curator Cynthia Engle have been working with UH-West O‘ahu’s students for the past three years to expand public access to the historic home through cutting-edge digital tools that bridge the past while “standing in the now.’’ The project also builds on Governor Ige’s vision to help students develop tech-savvy skills and creative thinking so they can fill jobs for an innovation economy in Hawai‘i.

Refurbishing and opening up the second floor of the historic home to the public has been one of Mrs. Ige’s priorities. With the creation of the governors’ photo gallery in 2017, people can now learn more about past leaders of Hawai‘i, their families and milestones in the state’s history. The newly created website also describes the home as the special place where Queen Lili‘uokalani spent 55 years of her life and left a legacy of strength, dignity and courage.

As curator, Engle talks with excitement about the prospect of educating more people about the significance of the iconic residence. “How do you bring a house from 1847 into the 21st century — especially to reach a younger generation raised on technology?” she asked. “Our partnership with the UH-West O‘ahu’s students has been great. As part of the Academy of Creative Media, they brought the skills and the perspective of a new generation. This project is just the beginning.”

Read more in the August Capitol Connection newsletter

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