Early Wednesday afternoon, Daidis Mayedo peered up at the Capitol Dome through the lens of her iPhone camera.
She snapped some pictures of the Statue of Freedom and of her daughter, Claudia Garcia, who was having her own iPhone photo shoot on the East Front. Mayedo then reviewed the images through her dark sunglasses.
The mother-daughter duo, in town from Franklin, Tenn., appeared completely absorbed with the content on their screens, like many of the tourists milling about the Capitol grounds that afternoon. Capitol Visitor Center staff are convinced the campus-wide iPhone fixation can help enhance the tourists' experience. In other words: Visiting the Capitol? There's an app for that.
In April, the Architect of the Capitol launched the "U.S. Capitol Visitor Guide" app to provide logistical information, such as suggested itineraries, maps and must-see views, to the 3-to-5 million people who visit each year. An "About the Capitol" section provides a layered diagram of the Dome and a narrative about the bronze statue crowning it.
Mayedo and Garcia told CQ Roll Call they were unaware the app existed, but were interested in adding it to their iPhones.
"What's it called?" Mayedo asked, then downloaded it on the spot. "There's so much here. We're definitely coming back. Definitely."
According to CVC spokeswoman Sharon Gang, walking directions and maps with accessible routes are among the most helpful features to visitors. The app contains guides to driving, parking and riding the Metro. There is a special section dedicated to visitors with disabilities with information on wheelchairs, listening devices and sign language interpretation of tours.
"Visitors also found the prohibited items list helpful to look at before their visit," Gang said in an email. "Someone else said he found the 'About Congress' section useful for a quick reference on the history of the Senate, House and the Capitol."
For those wishing to pay a visit to their local congressman's office, the app allows users to enter their zip code or browse by state. When it's time for lunch, they can look up the menu for the CVC cafeteria.
AOC also launched a "Guide to National Statuary Hall Collection of State Statues" app that describes and illustrates the 100 statues donated by the 50 states to honor people notable in their history.
Both apps were developed using in-house resources, according to Gang.
Based on interviews with about 25 other tourists exploring the Capitol grounds, the agency has not devoted many resources to publicizing the app. No one had heard of the guides. Since the launch, the two apps have been downloaded about 1,000 times.
One family from Michigan said their teenage daughter had spent time downloading guides to D.C. on her phone, but the U.S. Capitol Visitor Guide was not among them.
The free apps can be found in the Apple store at this link: http://www.visitthecapitol.gov/apps#.U49QzvldWSo .