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Clara Barton's House Goes High-Tech

Clara Barton at desk

The house belonging to Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, is now the subject of a new virtual tour available online.

Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross, knew how to heal the wounded, but surfing the web was probably not something she did often, especially considering she died in 1912. Well, fortunately for us, the modern day web surfers of the world, the Park Service has set up a new online exhibit which provides an interactive look at her home in Glenn Echo. The entrance to the virtual home tour can be found here:

Clara Barton Interactive Experience

The program is operated using Flash technology. It includes 360 degree photography of nearly every room of the house, extra photos of detail pieces in the house, and additional information about some of the objects in the photos. There is another segment of the tour aimed at school-aged kids which provides a self-test type application, which will eventually be folded into a curriculum-based program for teachers. As described in the Park Service release,

This new program is designed to engage school children and general audiences in the story of Clara Barton and the American Red Cross (ARC). Audiences can experience and view the offices, supply rooms, and living quarters as if they were actually in the home. In some ways, on-line audiences experience the home and its collection in even more detail. Users can "enter" 15 restored rooms and spaces and experience a complete 360-degree view with the use of a computer mouse. Within the rooms and hallways, users can view historic photographs, documents and objects, as well as click on hot-links and listen to simulated audio clips of Miss Barton's "voice."

As far as house tours go, it is good. I learned a thing or two about Clara Barton, and enjoyed some of the audio elements as well as the overall production value of the tour. I have one big complaint though, the virtual tour wants to take over the whole screen. The script on the page resizes a browser window to its maximum size, blocking out all other windows on the screen. A very annoying behavior, and really, not unnecessary since the size of the main program was limited to just a small square in the center of the browser. But, don't let that stop you if you are at least a bit curious to learn about Barton and life with the Red Cross.


Still nothing like seeing it in person with all the creaking floors and steps, but my daughter will surely love it. Also if you visit the real site on Tuesdays, they often have a 4-person play called Clara Barton: The Courage Within which brings Clara's life... err uhh... to life. I organized a visit with a bunch of homeschool families last year and it was very well done consider four people played 9-10 roles and they had about 5 or 6 props for the whole thing. It's performed at Glen Echo Park next door to CLBA. You won't be able to drop in on a performance because they only hold it when they have a minimum number of people, usually a school group. I have a little story about it (and her) in my blog if any parents out there are interested (

Thanks for the link Jeremy...

-- Jon Merryman

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