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Life & Work with Jessica Reeves and Mary Ellen Pethel

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jessica Reeves and Mary Ellen Pethel. Them and their team share their story with us below:

In 2017, Nashville Sites founder Dr. Mary Ellen Pethel created two digital walking tours of downtown Nashville as part of her post-graduate work in Digital Humanities at George Mason University.

The project was based on existing historical markers. Pethel reached out to Nashville’s Metro Historical Commission (MHC) and worked with Executive Director Tim Walker and Jessica Reeves, who coordinates MHC’s Historical Markers program. The trio made plans to move the project forward with the Metro Historical Commission Foundation as the main project sponsor.

Two years later, Nashville Sites launched with 23 mobile-friendly, free walking tours, that include audio narration, GPS mapping, and historic images. Nashville Sites enjoys support from MTSU, Belmont, TSU, Fisk, and Vanderbilt as well as other non-profit foundations and local organizations.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle-free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
We were ambitious in wanting to launch in November 2019 with 17 walking tours. These tours involve many moving parts, including audio narration, so it was a challenge to bring them all together in a short time frame. Ultimately we were successful and formed a lot of best practices from the experience.

Nashville Sites launched four months before the Covid-19 pandemic hit the United States. Luckily our format was built to be flexible and we were able to offer people the opportunity to stay active and engaged during the weeks and months of Covid-protocols and restrictions. Users could take the tours from home by providing an easy-to-use virtual option, or users could walk alone or with pods/families while remaining outside.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
A major new program funded and sponsored by the Metro Historical Commission Foundation, Nashville Sites focuses on incorporating scholarly research with historic sites in Nashville with delivery available on all devices: Mobile, tablet, and desktop.

The tours are pre-planned and based on themes, but participants have the opportunity to customize their experience based on their interests—providing an individualized adventure-style experience.

We love surprises, fun facts, and unexpected stories. Is there something you can share that might surprise us?
Visitors to are pleased with the easy-to-use virtual option, that allows them to preview tours before taking them in person. You can take a virtual tour from anywhere in the world! People are also often surprised that our tours are both cost-free and ad-free–no annoying pop-ups.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Sam Simpkins, Belmont University

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