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See the U.S. Capitol with New Digital Apps

Reference tools that were once only available in print are now moving to tablets and phones, providing information that is more portable and interactive.

Here in Washington, DC, the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center recently released a few of its most popular guidebooks as digital apps. These new apps make it easier plan visits and to help students and families learn more about the building’s rich history.

From its “Exhibition Hall” museum to guided tours inside and out, the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center offers numerous ways to learn about the history of the Capitol and Congress and see its magnificent architectural features and historic artifacts.  Exhibition Hall also provides a gateway to activities in the legislative chambers and historic halls.

During the past year, under the auspices of the Architect of the Capitol, the Center released three digital apps that go a step further in bringing its collections and historical knowledge directly to the people.

These guides cover a lot of ground, from identifying your state’s contribution in Statuary Hall, to finding the best tour time, to testing students’ knowledge about the Constitution. Here’s a quick review of each of these new apps:

Image from My Capitol app, Architect of the Capitol

Image from My Capitol app, Architect of the Capitol

1. My Capitol:  A self-guide of the Visitor Center’s Exhibition Hall and Capitol grounds, this digital app includes historical background and interactive activities geared to students ages 11 and older. My Capitol keeps the learning going by encouraging follow-up exploration at home or in school. Tour Stop 14 reminds us that Margaret Chase Smith was a presidential candidate in 1964…and we’re still waiting for a woman to fill that position!

2. Guide to National Statuary Hall Collection:  There are 100 statues in the U.S. Capitol that were donated by 50 states to honor notable people from their state history. Though it’s much more impressive to see these life-size statues in person, trying to remember them after your visit can be challenging. Will Rogers, Helen Keller, and many other important figures, though not as well known, are featured in this guide.

3. U.S. Capitol Visitor Guide: Preparing for a trip to the Capitol? This app gives you every detail you need to plan your visit, from booking tours to watching Congress in session.

For the first two apps, the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center redesigned publications created in InDesign for both Apple and Android platforms, taking advantage of Adobe and Mag+ publishing tools. Once loaded on devices, the apps can be viewed without connectivity to the internet. With the potential addition of audio and video in the future, apps like My Capitol will be entertaining as well as educational and informative.

As people’s reading patterns continue to evolve—with more consumption on mobile devices—we’ll see many museums and educational institutions re-imagine their print guides for digital formats.

The beauty of the U.S. Capitol is a constant inspiration, especially for those of us lucky enough to live and work in Washington, DC. Yes, political gridlock may be here to stay, but it is always a thrill to see the glow of the Capitol Dome lighting up the night sky.

U.S. Capitol at Night

Photo by: Architect of the Capitol