Websites offer virtual visit to area’s War of 1812 sites

The Baltimore Sun,0,7513482.story

The runup to this year’s celebration of the “Star-Spangled Banner” bicentennial took a leap forward Tuesday with the rollout of a pair of websites — one of which shows live video of Fort McHenry offering views similar to what Francis Scott Key would have seen during the Battle of Baltimore.

The project lets history buffs visit Baltimore-area War of 1812 sites online, through the work of Star-Spangled 200, the coordinating committee behind the celebration.

“Those of us who tell stories for a living are always looking for new ways and new media to transport people to amazing experiences,” said Bill Pencek, executive director of the Maryland War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission, “in this case, to broaden awareness of the dramatic events 200 years ago that tested American and gave us our national anthem.”

The nine-month, $250,000 web project comes four months ahead of the celebration, which runs June 14 to Sept. 13 and include live music, re-enactments and fireworks. The celebration will culminate in a festival Sept. 6-15 featuring naval ships from throughout the world and the Navy’s Blue Angels squadron, plus what is being billed as the largest fireworks display in Maryland history. lets viewers experience the sightline that Key, the Frederick lawyer, had when he was inspired by the British fleet’s failed attack to pen a poem that would later become “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Two web cams are on the Francis Scott Key Bridge, which carries Interstate 695 over the mouth of the harbor. Two other cameras operate from opposite sides of the harbor, one to the east, near the entrance to the Fort McHenry Tunnel, the other to the west, near the entrance to the Harbor Tunnel.

“We’re trying to put you in their shoes,” said Billy Twigg of the interactive firm Alexander + Tom, Inc., which developed the sites in partnership with the War of 1812 Commission and the National Park Service.

Another website, of interactive battlefield maps ( features information and displays on four engagements fought during the summer of 1814, when invading British forces attacked and burned Washington and attempted to capture the port of Baltimore. The four include the battles at St. Leonard Creek and Bladensburg, which preceded the British occupation of Washington, and the battles of North Point and Baltimore, which resulted in a British defeat and their withdraw from the area.

The site features detailed information, filmed segments and a mix of historic and contemporary photography and drawings. It also uses maps and satellite imagery to pinpoint the exact locations, putting the battles in perspective and aiding people who would like to visit the sites on their own.

Funds were raised through corporate sponsors, a state grant and the sale of the “Star-Spangled Banner” commemorative coin.

The Baltimore area’s War of 1812 commemoration kicked off in summer 2012, when the city’s Sailabration festivities attracted some 1.2 million visitors.

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