October 21, 2021

Tech helps tap history

App created by SUNY students explores county’s past

photo illustration by Todd R. McAdam/managing editor

A new app developed by a SUNY Cortland class and the Cortland County Historical Society will guide visitors, history buffs and the curious to 50 historic markers across the county.

Cortland County is full of history. Just take a gander at any of the blue and gold historical markers that invite anyone — resident or visitor — to stop and read them.

But with only enough space for so many words, people aren’t getting the full story, said SUNY Cortland history Professor Evan Faulkenbury.

“It’s vague and boring,” he said.

But now people can download an app called Clio — Your Guide to History and take a stroll down history lane. The app was created by 35 SUNY Cortland history students in Faulkenbury’s public history class, working with Cortland County Historian Eric Mulvihill and the Cortland County Historical Society to map, photograph and document the background of historical buildings and people in the county.

“The whole idea is to create a heritage tourism trail through Cortland County,” Mulvihill said Monday. “So if someone was traveling through here, who didn’t know the area they can access the information at their fingertips. They can do self-guided history tours using the app.”

Mulvihill said he had been wanting to do the project for some time but did not have the staffing. By incorporating Faulkenbury’s class, it became a “nice town-gown project,” Mulvhill said.

“Faulkenbury really embraced this,” he said. “I think the students have done
a great job.”

The app will locate markers within 50 miles and people can scroll through the list, click on whichever they are interested in, see photos of where the marker is located and then choose to get directions to the marker. The history related to the marker is also detailed.

The Salisbury-Pratt Homestead, for example, is located at Route 281 and Cold Brook Road in Homer. It is one of the markers that intrigued Faulkenbury as the class researched the site and learned that Oren Cravath and Betsey Northway settled there in 1830 and used their home as a stopping point along the Underground Railroad.

“We kind of think about Syracuse being the big hub, but before people got there people were stopping Cortland County,” he said.

The class detailed the history of 50 markers in Cortland County, with a plan to add more markers in the future. Faulkenbury said his spring semester class will work with Meghan Lawton and the Cortland County Visitors and Convention Bureau — although he’s not sure how at the moment — to market the app.

The project meant students got off campus and were able to learn more about the county in which they attend college.

“It definitely got them out of their comfort zone a little to get them off campus and that was a good thing,” Faulkenbury said. “I think by the end, they could see the big picture and that this project wasn’t something you just turn in and get a grade on, but the project lives on when people use the app.”