Tiree has a small footprint but a large reach – less than 700 people live on the island but 16,000 people visit each year to enjoy its history, natural beauty and wildlife. It is one of the sunniest places in the UK and one of the windiest, making it a mecca for windsurfers.
The combination of outdoor activities and rich history on the island inspired Frasan, a mobile app created for An Iodhlann (the island museum and historical archives centre in Scaranish). The app has made the extensive historical archives available to residents and visitors while walking, cycling or driving 'on the ground' of the island. The award has allowed the organisation to digitally break open the walls of the archives making the island a living historical landscape.
On the ground
Mobile phone coverage on Tiree can be intermittent or absent, requiring the app to be usable offline. Linking geographical locations with archive information, around 300 items and artifacts have been drawn from a collection of 12,000. The particular challenges, common to many rural areas, have required innovative design and technology solutions.
Visitors and local historians download the app onto their smartphones and tablets when they have 3G coverage or WiFi, then access geographically pertinent information, including old photographs, and interpretative maps/diagrams, while actually at sites of interest.
Maps are central to the application, using both OS Open Data and bespoke local maps and sketches of historical sites. The app adds an extra service for those who already visit An Iodhlann (around 10% of visitors), and will attract new users, especially younger tourists. Using a 'data layer' with elements of semantic web technology means that the raw geo-coded information is available for third parties to mash-up and for digital humanities research.