Messiah College History Department.
Hershey, Pa. means delicious chocolate, thrilling amusement park rides and the philanthropist Milton Hershey.
However, for Megan Keller ’13, the real story lies deeper than the
tourist attractions and candy bars. The story of Hershey, engrained in
its rich history, provides a deeper look at the industrious workers that
brought this town its fame. Keller found a way to intertwine this story
and her Messiah College education to develop and produce a mobile application that narrates a historical walking tour through downtown Hershey.
As a history major with a social studies certification,
Keller took many classes that challenged her to engage in public
history, a process that makes history more accessible to an average
person. For her public history class last fall, Keller was challenged to
consider an exhibit that would bring history to anyone. Keller knew she
could take it one step further than doing something traditional and
expected like building a Colonial exhibit.
Sitting in a study room in Boyer Hall, Keller stared down at her
iPhone and began to consider the power of the applications. She realized
how many people she could reach by developing an app that delivered
history to users. She researched and proposed the development of a
public history app for a Hershey tour. During this stage of planning,
Keller determined how expensive the process would be, what kind of
software it would take and what type of research would be necessary.
As an employee of Chocolate World and a life-long resident of
Hershey, Keller picked her hometown as the destination for her walking
tour. By living in the community, she believed she could bring a
meaningful perspective and tell the story of the workers and factories
that worked so hard to build the town. In doing this, Keller hopes to
not only offer a chance for tourists to engage in Hershey’s history, but
also give back to her community.
Given a chance to turn her dream into a real app, Keller chose to use
her proposal for her departmental honors project. As the first history
student to do her honors project with an electronic medium, she spent
the summer reading books about writing an app and practiced by making
mini apps on her computer. After formally presenting the project in December, Keller’s app was shipped off to Apple in mid-January.
Throughout this process, Jim LaGrand,
professor of American history, served as Keller’s advisor. He helped
with the historical aspect of the project and encouraged her in the
midst of challenges. When going through the legal hoops and working out
the audio bugs, Keller greatly appreciated LaGrand’s confidence and
“Megan is ambitious and forward-thinking. She realizes that for the
discipline of history to fully realize its goals, some historians have
to think carefully about how to reach public audiences with historical
scholarship,” says LaGrand.
For the technological component of the project, Keller mostly taught
herself and received some advice and coding help from Jon Wheat of Information Technology Services at
Messiah. In doing so, Keller walked away with a valuable new skill set,
as well as an understanding of how to write clearly for a broad
The app, named iHersheyTour, leads users through a mile walking tour
of downtown Hershey. Giving walking directions and full audio narration,
the tour takes approximately an hour to an hour and a half to complete.
The free app will be available on all Apple products in early February.
In the near future, Keller plans to create a website and blog that
supplements her app and serves as a history resource. She would also
like to continue to engage in public history by developing additional
“It’s wonderful she’s already doing this as an undergraduate. Her
project showcases impressive research and communication skills that
could be implemented in many different ways in the future,” says
Watch Megan's honors thesis presentation:
Check out this short interview with Megan at "The Virtual Office Hours: