There’s a fun new way to explore Florida’s history right here in Bradenton

There’s a fun new way to experience Florida’s history right here in Bradenton.

A new app called Pathways allows museum-goers to interact with exhibits and complete unique tours on almost any subject at South Florida Museum in Bradenton.
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A new app called Pathways allows museum-goers to interact with exhibits and complete unique tours on almost any subject at South Florida Museum in Bradenton.

Imagine being a water droplet in an ancient Florida river, one of millions rushing along to the rhythm of the water cycle.

Then, quite suddenly, you are sucked up into a mastodon’s giant thirsty trunk.

This is one of the experiences that kids (and adults) can now enjoy thanks to a new app at the South Florida Museum.

The app, called Pathways, weaves exhibits and museum objects together to tell interactive stories, dropping museum-goers right in the middle of the state’s history.

The Pathways program at South Florida Museum has been seven years in the making. Pictured: Museum provost Jeff Rodgers holds a tablet displaying a previous version of the program. Herald File Photo

“We don’t want you standing around in front of an object,” said Jeff Rodgers, provost of South Florida Museum. “We’re creating new tours that take you between objects that wouldn’t otherwise be connected.”

The adventures that the app provides can be customized to just about any topic or field of study.

Diverse concepts like the water cycle, anatomy or evolution can all be explored using the same exhibits.

A student version of the app gives teachers extensive education and assessment options.

Over time, the museum will be able to build a massive library of tours covering anthropology, geology, history and more.

The possibilities are putting the creative minds at the museum to the test.

“It allows us to flex our creative muscles and get all of the staff involved,” Rodgers said. “This will open up great stories to thousands of people.”

The Pathways app makes it easy to navigate South Florida Museum. It has personalized programs for students and the public, as well as a “cheat sheet” feature for adults. Ryan Ballogg

Ashley Girt is the director of the Pathways program and developed the content for the different versions of the app.

Girt also records the voice-overs for the audio tracks in the tours.

“It was really fun to come up with ways to keep kids engaged with things that aren’t moving,” Girt said.

Ideas for an app have been discussed among museum staff for around seven years, long before they were common at most museums.

Museum staff currently plans to release a new Pathways tour on the public version of the app at least every two months.

“It creates a revolving door of information that is available to people,” Girt said.

Tannebaum, a young adult male who was rescued in January from a Fort Myers river, is one of the resident manatees at South Florida Museum. The aquarium is incorporated into tours in the new Pathways app. Tiffany Tompkins

Rodgers says that apps like Pathways will help turn the page on the “been there done that” aspect of museums.

“You never get to say that anymore,” Rodgers said.

Pathways is available in the Apple and Google Play stores; just search for “Pathways SFM.”

South Florida Museum is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. 201 10th St. W., Bradenton. 941-746-4131.