We’re always thinking about new ways to engage people with history. This year when we were planning events for South Australia’s History Festival we started chatting to David from Digital Barn and found out he’s a geocacher. From this conversation Geocaching History was born.
Now that South Australia’s History Festival is finished for another year, we thought this would be a great time to write some tips for those looking to open up their history using geocaching.
Geocaching is a bit like a treasure hunt, or a modified version of orienteering. Using a geocaching app on a GPS enabled mobile device geocachers hunt for hidden caches. Many geocaches are located at or near landmarks and points of interest, so why not use them to help present some of our local history to the eager individuals looking to explore our neighbourhoods?
Some caches are small, with just a logbook and pencil to record your find (which you also log online). Other caches are much larger with containers of ‘souvenirs’ which geocachers can take, usually leaving something of equal value in return. It’s great fun, and something many people do with friends or family, making it a social activity that gets you out and about exploring hidden places you might otherwise never notice.
A core concept of geocaching is that it is a community (not commercial or corporate) activity. This is one of the reasons why we partnered with some avid cachers to coordinate this foray into caching. Worst Cache Scenario, the group David geocaches with, worked with us to identify suitable sites around Adelaide, Birdwood and Port Adelaide that connect to interesting stories about our community’s past. The partnership with Worst Cache Scenario has been crucial as we didn’t have any prior experience geocaching, and many of the ideas I came up with didn’t work. Some locations were too close to existing caches, others were too exposed or posed a risk of damaging heritage buildings or monuments. Worst Cache Scenario helped us to find safe spaces to create good caches, and also to identify existing caches that other people had already created which we have been able to make part of the story.
Take precautions, and give notice
While geocaching is usually done ‘secretly’ we wanted to make sure, as a public organisation, that we did the right thing and communicated with anyone who might be impacted by our cache locations, or who might have concerns about what we’re doing. The cache locations were all planned around our museums so we have been keeping in touch with staff at the Migration Museum, National Motor Museum and South Australian Maritime Museum. We also contacted local councils in these areas and were thrilled with their response. Adelaide City Council and the City of Port Adelaide Enfield even agreed to sponsor the Geocaching History website. We’ve been putting some extra souvenirs in the larger caches created by Worst Cache Scenario for the History Festival, with a few themed ‘prizes’ to be discovered.
What did we hope to achieve?
The project has been great fun, and I’ve personally learnt a lot working with David and the Worst Cache Scenario team. I’m certainly not an expert in this field yet, I found my first cache not long ago and I made sure I looked for an easy one with no maths problems or tricky coordinate clues! Through Geocaching History we wanted to connect with new people in our community and get them excited about our history. We’ll be looking through the website statistics and cache logs, and hopefully sharing some more about this now that the History Festival is over. If nothing else, we’ve been having a great time getting out and exploring our neighbourhoods!