Lessons in Herstory changes "His-story"
By Alixandra Rutnik on Aug 19, 2020
This AR App is empowering women and reshaping the way we will look at history forever
Lessons in Herstory is an augmented reality app created for Daughters of the Evolution that allows students to see history in a colorful new way with a female focus. It turns out that women are seriously lacking in history textbooks, so this app is here to right this wrong by highlighting women who have made an impact in our shared past – changing history to herstory.
We talked with Goodby Silverstein & Partners copywriter Trevor Joplin; brand strategist Shaza Elsheshtawy; ACD Ricardo Uribe; and art director Eleanor Rask — four members from the creative team who not only made this project a reality, but also a One Show 2020 Best of Discipline winner in Mobile.
Lessons in Herstory
Goodby Silverstein & Partners / San Francisco + GS&P Social / San Francisco + GS&P Labs / San Francisco + ELevel / San Francisco
Daughters of the Evolution
2020 Illustration: Digital / Series
What was the inspiration behind this idea?
We were asked by Daughters of the Evolution to come up with a creative way to tackle gender imbalance in society. In order to do that, we needed to first find out where this gender imbalance began. And as it turns out, textbooks in the U.S. are pretty messed up.
In fact, we found that less than 11 percent of stories in US History textbooks are devoted to women, which means children aren’t getting a balanced representation of how women contributed to society. We knew we wanted to change these textbooks, but we also knew that convincing textbook companies to rewrite, reprint, and redistribute textbooks would be a waste of our time. With all of these obstacles in mind, we soon realized that using Augmented Reality to “rewrite” these textbooks was our only option. After that, we never looked back.
It must have taken a lot of time to gather the research to make this AR app happen. Among the facts, the women, the textbook, the illustrations, the AR and app aspects, etc, what was the timeline like for this project?
Trevor: We came up with the idea in October 2018. At that point, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. All we knew is that we wanted to launch this app in time for Women’s History Month in March 2019. With our deadline set, we only had five months to develop the app from scratch. Immediately, each of us took a step back from our traditional roles as creatives and became full-time researchers, historians, app developers, etc. We had art directors reading textbooks, writers designing apps, and a deadline that wasn’t going to budge. It felt like a blur to us at the time, but somehow we made it happen and we learned a heck of a lot about powerful women.
"With our deadline set, we only had five months to develop the app from scratch. Immediately, each of us took a step back from our traditional roles as creatives and became full-time researchers, historians, app developers, etc."
89% men to 11% women in history textbooks is a shocking disparity. How many schools in California are using this app as a part of their curriculum now?
Shaza: In the first month after we launched the app, we knew that schools in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Marin, and San Jose were implementing Lessons in Herstory into their curriculum. Since then, the app has been used to help teachers and students in places all over the world, like Brazil, India, and China.
In what ways are you hoping to change the conversation about “his-story” through the use of this app?
Shaza: We’re hoping to get to the root of the overwhelming gender imbalance issue by creating conversations among adolescents, who are at the most pivotal time in their lives when it comes to identity development. So much about changing the conversation is simply about showing what has been missed, and Lessons in Herstory does that. It shows what has been historically possible for women (when traditional textbooks don’t show those stories) and helps these young children conceive of a world where their own power and potential is possible, too. Even more, we hope to expand Lessons in Herstory beyond textbooks, to continue to change the “his-story” narrative in everything from museums to statues to currency. Anywhere where a woman’s accomplishment has been overshadowed by a man’s success, we hope to use our technology to illuminate the stories of powerful women who have been overlooked.
"Anywhere where a woman’s accomplishment has been overshadowed by a man’s success, we hope to use our technology to illuminate the stories of powerful women who have been overlooked."
How many historical women are available to read about through using this AR app?
Ricardo: In order to align with the time periods covered in our main textbook, the app currently features 75 different women from the 19th century. Now that we’ve covered that time period, we have some creative freedom to do what we want with the app. With that in mind, our main objective now is to expand the app to include an even more diverse group of women from all over the world and from various time periods. As our inventory of influential women grows, diversity and equal representation are at the top of our priorities.
"The app currently features 75 different women from the 19th century. With that in mind, our main objective now is to expand the app to include an even more diverse group of women from all over the world and from various time periods."
Lessons In Herstory now has three gold pencils and two gold cubes. Going forward, what are the next steps for Lessons In Herstory?
Eleanor: First off, we’re extremely grateful to have had such a successful award season. The global recognition is great for the app, and therefore good for the women featured in the app too. And for that, we thank you. As for our next steps, this is definitely not the end of the road for Daughters of the Evolution and Lessons in Herstory. Anything from working with museums to creating a TV show could be on the horizon. Stay tuned!
"As for our next steps, this is definitely not the end of the road for Daughters of the Evolution and Lessons in Herstory. Anything from working with museums to creating a TV show could be on the horizon."
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