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9/11 iPhone app examines, and makes, history

A mobile application called Explore 9/11 shows how apps can be used to describe history in previously unimagined ways--without the gimmickry often associated with programs designed for the iPhone and other gadgets.

2 min read

When it comes to 9/11, there are only two sorts of people. Those who were there and those who weren't.

But the National September 11 Memorial and Museum has created an app that lets those who download it listen to those who were there--and to experience at least some of the enormity of the event.

Unlike many apps, Explore 9/11 doesn't try to make things fun. It simply uses every aspect of app technology to help people understand just what happened and how it might have felt.

The app lets you walk to certain locations near Ground Zero while simultaneously looking at photographs taken at those same locations on September 11, 2001. And it offers firsthand accounts from those who were there, which you can listen to as you walk. It also features a time line, so the sequence of events can be both experienced and understood.

Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

"We understand it takes thousands of people to make history, and we are building a museum that acknowledges that," Jake Barton, of design firm Local Projects, told the Wall Street Journal. Local Projects is the firm that created the app. "This is one thing that digital technology does exceptionally well, and it's literally something you could not have approached 20 years ago, 50 years ago."

The app is accompanied by a website called Make History, where people can upload their own photographs to create a continuous memorial to one of this decade's defining events.

No one can possibly find this iPhone app enjoyable. That's what makes it such a good idea.