Bringing History Alive with a Mobile App

Bringing History Alive with a Mobile App
By Sarah Prager

When I was coming out as a teen, I turned to the past as a source of comfort. I noticed how much things had gotten better for the LGBT community over time. It made the present a little easier, knowing that the past had been darker and the future would be brighter. I studied LGBT history on my own time and felt cared for by the ancestors that had made incredible sacrifices for my life to be safer today.

This is what inspired me to create Quist, the new mobile app for iOS and Android that displays events from LGBT history. This year I collected over 750 historical events from the year 1 BC through 2013, from court cases to love letters. I included events like the first time HIV was mentioned in print (“Rare Cancer Seen in 41 Homosexuals”) and the first transgender politician to be elected to office. There are stories of female-bodied people passing as men to fight in wars or to date women, and stories of men deemed sodomites being executed for causing plagues or earthquakes.

I wanted to share these stories with the next generation of LGBT youth so they could feel the same sense of inspiration I did growing up. I organized the events with fields for the date, location, description, links to more information, related videos, cited source, and background image, among others. I hired the development firm Natural Fusion to design and code the cross-platform app. Each dynamic screen in the app draws from content in a database I maintain.

When a user opens that app they see the events for today’s date in history. So if today were October 16, you would see that on October 16, 961, Al-Hakam II became the caliph of Cordoba, a leader who lived as an open homosexual and kept an all-male harem. You could swipe through to see the summaries of other October 16 events and choose one to click. That would bring you to the event page where you would see the full description plus links to related Amazon products, YouTube videos, press coverage of the event, and/or informational websites.

The events are also sortable. You can click on a country from a Google Maps view of the world and it will bring up all of the events for that country. You can enter in a specific month and day to see events for that date or select a year to see all events from every day in that year. The final option is to browse by a dropdown list of U.S. states.

I made the app free so it would be accessible to all. To cover the expenses of the app, I am offering advertising packages to LGBT-friendly companies who want to access the LGBT audience. Beside ads that rotate on every screen of the app, the advertisers also receive consistent promotion on the Quist website, Facebook page, and Twitter account. Since the app already had 2,000 followers on social media pre-launch, this is just as valuable as the mobile ads.

As more and more people of all ages turn to their smartphones as primary sources of information, I believe we need to meet them where they are. History cannot live only on paper pages anymore. As the LGBT community makes history every day, we’ll be updating the app’s content in real time. I hope you’ll join the Quist community on your phone or tablet as well as on the streets.

Quist is available to download for free from the App Store and Google Play. Advertising information can be found at Like on Facebook at and follow on Twitter @QuistApp.

Sarah Prager ( consults on social media for those working to make a difference in their communities. She is the founder of the Quist mobile app (@QuistApp), which tells the story of LGBT history.

Photo Credit: jbouie via Photo Pin | Creative