National Mall and Memorial Parks Mobile App


The National Mall and Memorial Parks app is the first official National Park Service mobile application to be developed. This app, built for both iPhone and Android-based devices, seeks to address one of the most common issues faced by visitors to the National Mall area in downtown Washington, DC—where each of the monuments and memorials is located, how to get there, and what can be learned about it before visiting.

About the App

Central to this wayfinding-based app is the custom cartography. Using the Park Service Unigrid standards, we created a map specifically for use on a handheld device. Care was taken to keep the map as uncluttered as possible while still maintaining usefulness and accuracy. The custom map sits on a Google API backend so that we could leverage that service's walking directions function. Three levels of zoom lets the user explore the map without being presented with too much information at the onset.

Red pins mark sites around the National Mall, including those not managed by the Park Service. It was decided to include some information about those buildings since visitors need and want to know what the building is, regardless of who is responsible for it. So the Smithsonian museums, the U.S. Capitol, and other DC landmarks are included in the app, with brief information and a link to that website for more information.

The National Park Service sites include much more information. Over 40 original essays about the history and significance of these sites are augmented by multimedia albums—nearly 400 photos, video, and audio files. Another page presents basic information—parking, nearby Metros, ticket information. A live feed pulls up-to-the-date Event information into the app to help visitors plan their day.

The app also uses an augmented reality feature to help visitors figure out what is in front of them—and hidden nearby. Using the device's camera, GPS, and compass, the app superimposes labels onto a live camera feed. Touching one of those labels takes the visitor to more information about it—including relative distance from current location and walking directions.

A Tours section provides visitors with ranger-suggested tours of the Mall area, or by bookmarking a particular site, users can create their own custom tours.

Since sightseers like to take photos, we created a custom postcard frame. With a homage to those 1950s "Wish You Were Here" type postcards, visitors can take their own photos and email or share them with friends back home.

We were also able to leverage the robust 508 accessibility features available in the handheld devices to make the content usable for a wide variety of users.

"Even though the NAMA app is now months old, I still launch it frequently and take delight discovering new things about the National Mall. Using it reminds me of the Arthur C. Clarke observation 'Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.' You and your colleagues are the magicians who made this project the great success that it is." Tom Patterson, Cartographer, National Park Service.

National Park Service


Chosen as iTune App Store's "New and Noteworthy" (August 11) and "Staff Favorites" (August 25)