As much as Davis House is the focus of our heritage projects, it doesn’t exist as an island. Rather, its history closely mirrors that of the surrounding neighborhood, and so any exploration of the site’s history is incomplete without looking at this house as part of a larger community.
It is with this in mind that we propose a neighborhood walking tour that incorporates audio and visual augmented reality technologies to bring history to the ears and fingertips of visitors. Much like the DeTour programs available in other parts of the Bay Area, this tour involves a cell phone app that instructs the visitor on where to go, and what to see. Narration guides the visitor along a predetermined path, with explanations of local history along the way.
Augmenting all of this are aural and visual cues that help to more fully evoke the past and present of this area. In the century since Davis House was first built, this hillside has gone from quiet canyonland to bustling enclave of student life. What did it sound like 100 years ago? What might it have sounded like to walk past frat houses on game day in the 1920s?
This immersion also helps visitors more fully explore questions of racial exclusion, gender discrimination, community evolution, and the notion of progress over time. How did International House, at the bottom of the hill, shake up what had been an all-white neighborhood? How did sororities serve the growing female student body at the University of California? How might they have come to represent something outmoded? And when the co-op system radically altered the face of the neighborhood, was it all forward progress, or did some of these same questions still remain?
The goal of this walking tour is not to answer these questions in full, but to leave visitors with a critical understanding of the complexities of student life. This speaks not only to Berkeley’s past, but to the future of student life everywhere.