Carrie

The opening page of Carrie defines the word, dictionary like, as “1: Derelict blast furnace located along the Monongahela River in Rankin, Pa.” Perhaps the editors at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette were worried that readers wouldn’t recognize the name of one of the last standing but long since abandoned pre-World War II blast furnaces in the U.S.

Carrie the story is about remembering the history of the site. Alongside the definition is an old black-and-white picture of the place with men in fedoras and white shirts standing around. The user can drag a slider across the photo to reveal the same place as it is now, crumbling and covered with graffiti.

How It Works

The story is divided into three parts. The first is an interactive tour of the blast furnace consisting of seven large 360° photos of different rooms. Each one is coupled with an audio interview of someone who used to work at the plant explaining what the user is looking at. The user can control the direction of their gaze within the photo.

The second part consists of four videos that further explain the history of Carrie and the basics of blast furnaces. Topics include “What is a blast furnace?” and “Why are the furnaces important?”

The third part is an interactive timeline that charts the history of Carrie, from its construction in 1884 to its designation as a National Historic Landmark in 2006.

A rudimentary menu connects the parts together.

What Works, What Doesn’t

From the opening definition to the blast furnacing 101 videos, Carrie sure spends a lot of its time trying to convince the user that a blast furnace is worth all this attention. It works better when the content is left to speak for itself.

The 360° panoramas inside the crumbling ruins of America’s rust belt are amazing to look at. The 360° treatment works well with the scale of the spaces and the detail of the machinery. The accompanying audio that explains what each space was when Carrie was still in operation fills in just enough context. It’s about as close as the user can get to actually being there with a tour guide.

The videos aren’t quite as successful. The first, which follows two former Carrie workers as they wander through the site has some emotional punch, but the video that explains what a blast furnace is by interviewing the director of museum collections and archives for Rivers of Steel probably would have been better as a paragraph of text.

And if the Gazette editors were so worried that users wouldn’t even know what a blast furnace was, perhaps the story could have been structured to provide an explanation sooner instead of tucking it away in the video section where it isn’t even the first video listed.

The timeline, meanwhile (like many other timelines), is consigned to its own section, disconnected from the rest of the site.

As it is, the overall narrative is unfortunately quite disjointed. There isn’t enough of a sustained narrative here to draw the reader in. If blast furnaces were so important, Carrie fails to make the case.

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