Love history? Love to travel? The Virginia History Trails app is for you! Developed by the 2019 Commemoration, American Evolution, in collaboration with the Library of Virginia and Virginia Humanities, the Virginia History Trails app is one of many endeavors commemorating 400 years of Virginia history and culture centering on themes of democracy, diversity, and opportunity.
The Virginia History Trails app contains more than 400 stories highlighting important people, places, and events that shaped the state and the nation. Included in the stories are more than 200 historic sites, museums, and markers awaiting discovery. Each story contains an image, short description, and links to more information, as well as mapped directions from your location. You can find these stories with the keyword search function or by finding what is nearby with the app’s GPS option. If you are not sure where to start, there are 20 preloaded trails to explore:
- African American
- American Revolution
- Civil Rights
- Civil War
- Religious Liberty
- Representative Government
- Virginia Indians
Through these trails you can learn more about historical figures and events you know (or think you know) and discover other items of interest. Let’s say you know about Maggie Walker, the civil rights activist and pioneer businesswoman. The app shows the location of her home (now a National Historic site), and tells you more about her newspaper and fraternal order endeavors. The app will also lead you to other neighboring sites in Richmond’s Jackson Ward that may not be familiar to you. For instance, the statue of famed dancer and community advocate Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, the Black History Museum and Cultural Center, located in the historic Leigh Street Armory, and the original building of the Grand Fountain of the United Order of True Reformers, one of the earliest and most successful African American fraternal organizations in the country.
Or how about Poplar Forest, Thomas Jefferson’s Bedford County retreat? While most know of his iconic Monticello, Poplar Forest is architecturally significant in its own right. The Virginia History Trails app can help you discover many hidden gems of Virginia culture.
Virginia is, of course, replete with Civil War battlefields. But you might not know about Graffiti House, which served as both a Confederate hospital and Union headquarters during the Battle of Brandy Station. Travelling soldiers from both sides marked the building’s walls with their names, inscriptions, and drawings.
While you have probably visited the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Fairfax County, did you know that there is a Virginia Air and Space Center in Hampton and a NASA Wallops Flight Facility in Accomack County?
The app traverses the whole of Virginia and includes many unique historic sites. Just a few sites that the app can help you discover include the Pamunkey Indian Museum & Cultural Center in King William County; Fort Lee’s United States Army Women’s Museum; the Ralph Stanley Museum & Traditional Mountain Music Center in Clintwood; the Anne Spencer House and Garden Museum in Lynchburg; Shot Tower State Historical Park in Wythe County; the Belle Boyd Cottage in Front Royal; frontier hero Andrew Lewis’s statue near the Salem Civic Center; and the Lucy Burns Museum at the Workhouse Art Center in Fairfax County.
You can sign in via Facebook, Google, or email to create a profile that tracks your progress as you explore Virginia and share your travels on social media. When you create a profile, you can earn electronic Bronze, Silver, and Gold badges as you visit sites along the app.
The Virginia History Trails app is free and compatible with iPhone and Android devices. So download today from the App Store and Google Play!
Check out a video clip of the Virginia History Trails app.
–John Deal, Editor, Dictionary of Virginia Biography