NKU students' tech-based business brings small-town history to 21st century

Northern Kentucky University grad students Sean Thomas and Steve Oldfield took a classroom idea into the real world with a tech-spin on telling small-town history.
Thomas and Oldfield created a way for small historical organizations to share their unique pasts with a wider audience though multimedia, self-guided walking tours. They've created Instant Access Tours, and their mobile walking tours are now in two small river cities.
Instant Access Tours works with existing historical content to create interactive apps that users can access through their smart phones. Users not on-site can take virtual tours through their home computers.
"Our goal is to revive old or ineffective walking tours and bring them into the modern age, with the hopes that they will educate and inspire learners for generations to come," the Instant Access website proclaims.
Thomas and Oldfield created Instant Access Tours after coming up with the idea as a capstone project for NKU's Master of Arts in Public History program.
Thomas, a former videographer and editor for the Army, is a self-described "history nut." The idea for the tours came after Thomas had done with work on the Fort Thomas Military and Community Museum.
"I realized that these small museums really have a hard time marketing themselves," he says. "Then they lose visitors and they lose money. I thought, 'How could I help museums keep their doors open?'
He and Oldfield, a broadcast journalist, decided on a project that would help small towns use technology to present great historical moments in a cost-effective way.
The pair began by working in New Richmond to update its Underground Railroad Freedom Trail tour for their capstone project. Their first business client was the Walking Tour for the Battle of Augusta. They hope soon to collaborate on tours in Covington.

By Feoshia H. Davis

This story originally appeared in Soapbox on Nov. 6, 2012.
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