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Digital Tour

Description: The Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area, Homestead, Pennsylvania, manages the Steel Valley Trail that runs along the Monongahela River through the 430 acres that were the site of one of the world's largest steel mills - the United States Steel Homestead Works. In 1986, the United States Steel Homestead Works closed after a century of steel making. In its place a thriving retail and entertainment complex was created called The Waterfront. The Waterfront attracts eight million visitors annually who are mostly unaware of the significance of the site. The National Heritage Area's challenge was to attract visitors to the trail and interpret the altered landscape.

The Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area developed an innovative DVD walking tour that is using portable DVD as an interpretive tool for visitors to the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area. The Rivers of Steel DVD walking tour, entitled History to Go, is a self-guided walking tour that takes visitors through Homestead's Historic District, the former site of the legendary Homestead Works and the site of the 1892 Battle of Homestead. Using historic photos, a rich narrative, and archival footage, History to Go connects visitors to a vanished industrial and cultural landscape. Visitors are able to learn about "the stacks", find out what portion of the mill used to be a neighborhood playground, and learn that a restaurant now sits on the site of what once was the worlds largest open hearth.

Rivers of Steel chose to develop this particular technology in conjunction with traditional signage because management felt it allowed the visitor to interact with the landscape more freely. Conventional waysides are static. The Rivers of Steel Digital Tour allows visitors to explore the outdoor landscape more feely and at their own pace.

The idea originated from work Rivers of Steel was undertaking to produce a more complex and technically advanced self-guided tour of the Bost Building and the 1892 Battle of Homestead site.

The History to Go is available at the Visitors Center for rental or can be purchased and played on any DVD compatible equipment.

The cost for developing the completed DVD walking tour was $30,000.

Geographic area covered: The Homestead Historic District, the 430-acres of the former Homestead Works, and the Pump House site of the 1892 Battle of Homestead.

List of partners and relationships: Glyph, Inc, the design firm, Continental Real Estate Companies, real estate company that owned the Waterfront at the time of this program's development, and Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area, the managing entity of the Steel Valley Trail initiative.

Accomplishments to date:

  1. Development of an innovative self-guided, DVD walking tour allows visitors to explore Homestead's Historic District, the former site of the Homestead Works, and the site of 1892 Battle of Homestead.

Key success factors: A flexible and motivated staff willing to explore and stumble through the learning process needed to deal with constantly evolving new technologies to produce a functioning and innovative interpretive tool.

Frustrations: Not understanding the technical side of the project early on so that the Rivers of Steel staff could have asked/pursued clarification on project goals and thereby avoiding problems discovered in the final stages of the program's development. As a result we had to change the format from a digital handheld device to a more stable DVD platform.

Most important lessons learned to date: When working with hi-tech applications, have a very clear and precise definition of the project's goal then engage a contractor who is experienced in a set of multi-disciplined technologies so what the correct application is chosen to the project goal.

Suggested resource materials(related to the case study): For additional information, refer to the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area's website at

For more information:

Name: Janis Dofner
Affiliation: Director of Communications, Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area
Phone/Fax: 412-464-4020 / 412-464-4417

Partnership category(ies) (check all that apply)

Fundraising __; Capital Improvement __; Facility Management __; Trails _X__; Design _X_; Program Delivery _X_; Visitor Services __; Tenant Organizations __; Concessioners __; Natural Resources Management/Restoration __; Cultural Resources __; Education/Interpretation _X_; Arts __; Information Services ___; Transportation __; Mutual Aid __; Fire Management __; Planning ___; Tourism _X__; Community Relations ___;

Other ____________________________

Prepared by: Janis Dofner Date posted: 6/9/04 updated 6/26/06
Phone: 412-464-4020

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