About Jon Voss

Jon Voss is the Historypin Strategic Partnerships Director. Together with global collaborators and the Historypin team, he’s helping to build an open ecosystem of historical data across libraries, archives, and museums worldwide. His innovative work at the intersection of technology and cultural memory is also getting him closer to his childhood dream of perfecting time travel.

My Day of DH with some of the Historypin Team

This is a cross-post from the Day of DH 2014 events on April 8, 2014.

Day of DH is an open community publication project that brings together scholars interested in the digital humanities from around the world to document what they do on one day, April 8th, answering the question, “Just what do digital humanists really do?”

The April 8, 2014 Pin of the Day on Historypin, from the Sourdough & Rye Project

The April 8, 2014 Pin of the Day on Historypin, from the Sourdough & Rye Project

I guess I close the timezones for the Historypin team on our Day of DH, which has seen our team busy around the globe today. Started early for me after midnight last night as I was up late doing  research on how the OpenGLAM community is using or can use git as a tool to collaboratively track changes and edits to open datasets.  From a community perspective, it’s a pretty fascinating look at how the dream of the Web can support collaboration free from corporate “walled gardens.”  The reason I’ve been looking at this example is thanks to the folks at Indiana University who recently shared the metadata for the Cushman Collection on github, which we’re working to start zooming in on lat/longs for sharing on Historypin, and want to make sure we do so in a way that adds to the data and potential reuse  and scholarship.  If you’re unfamiliar with this collection,  you’ve got to check it out!

These are the kinds of rabbit holes we fall into regularly in our work at Historypin–helping people discover and share amazing treasures taking us back in time.  While I slept, dreaming of csv files, the team in London and Bulgaria were busy at work on a number of projects.  Breandán was busy in Brussels with the Europeana Creative project, one of four major collaborative projects we’re working on in support of Europeana.

As my morning usually begins in SF, I caught up with the team in Europe first thing.  Breandán and I and a few others in the office were coordinating reporting processes for these projects, which, as you can imagine, can be pretty complex with the numbers of partners involved.  Then popping into the London office via Google Hangout or chat, where our Senior Designer, Kate was putting the finishing touches on mockups for one of our partner projects, the Stanford-led and Mellon-funded Crowdsourcing for Humanities Research.   A quick check-in with Rebekkah Abraham, our amazing Historypin Director of Operations, as we are in the midst of a flurry of Project releases at the moment, including East at Main Street, which launched last week.

From there it was on to DC for a planning meeting and then another soon-to-be-announced project.  Today these meetings included some DPLA searches to find indications for possible content partners for one of the projects. It’s amazing to have an ever-growing number of resources at our fingertips to aid the discovery and reuse of cultural heritage content.

The afternoon is catchup on email (since I was out all last week, still plenty of triage happening), and long overdue blog posts.  By the end of the day, I often move my attention over to partners in Australia and New Zealand, who are already starting their tomorrow. Today I got a pictorial walkthrough of an exhibit just closing outside of Melbourne, Australia, for which we worked with the Yarra Ranges Regional Museum to create a pinning station and touchscreen display to highlight their outreach to communities surrounding historical main streets of the area.

Changing Places, a Yarra Ranges Project on Historypin complementing their exhibit.

Changing Places, a Yarra Ranges Project on Historypin complementing their exhibit.

And that wraps up another whirlwind day (at least until kids are fed, scotch is sipped, and Harry Potter read, then probably a bit more). As always, feeling very fortunate to work with so many smart, passionate people working to share stories and build community around our shared and often unknown past.

Introducing East at Main Street

With the East at Main Street project, you can learn more about the historic places and cultural resources that have played a central role to Asian and Pacific Islander American communities throughout the United States, and find out how you and your community can add places to the map as well.

Below, you’ll find some short video tutorials to get you started, and we’ve also made available a helpful Getting Started Guide (pdf).

This project has been made possible by the Asian & Pacific Islander Americans in Historic Preservation Network, the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and Donna Graves and Michelle Magalong.

Historypin is back in Austin!

Going to be in Austin next week? So are we! We’re back at SXSW with an exciting global panel entitled 100 Years of Oversharing: Tools for Time Travel, happening March 10 at 12:30pm in the Convention Center.

And if that’s not enough, we helped put together a roundtable of amazing dreamers and doers from around the world which is free and open to the public at the #IdeaDrop House. The panel was called Backporch Beers Roundtable: Mashup Culture, made possible by E-Resources and Libraries (ER&L), ProQuest and the Digital Library Federation (DLF).  The conversation was hosted by Historypin’s Jon Voss and Rachel Frick of the Digital Library Federation.  

Don’t worry, this isn’t actually an hour and a half long, we broke it into two 30 minute sessions with a 20 minute break in between since we couldn’t fit everyone on the couch. Group one considered copyright and examples that push the boundaries in GLAMs and included Keir Winesmith, Head of Web and Digital Projects, SFMOMA; Molly Jacobs, Web Producer, American Experience/PBS; Heather Champ, Community & Content, Findery; and Richard Vijgen, Information Designer.

Group 2 starts at about 46 minutes into the recording and explores some global examples of creative reuses of library and museum spaces and content. This group featured Daniel Flood, Creative Production Manager, The Edge, State Library of Queensland; Johan Oomen, Manager R&D, Netherlands Institute of Sound & Vision; Kathryn Jaller, New Media Manager, Contemporary Jewish Museum; and Joe Voss, Senior Counsel, Clark Hill PLC.

American Experience Launches the Engineering Map of America

The original Pennsylvania Station, erected in 1910 in New York City, was a vast structure that occupied two whole city blocks, or 28 acres. Image courtesy of Library of Congress.

New York’s Pennsylvania Station was an incredible achievement of modern engineering, though in the rapidly changing landscape of New York City, it would stand only for a number of decades. As usual, the American Experience team brings this exciting history to life in their new film, The Rise and Fall of Penn Station, on PBS.

As part of the February 18th debut of the film, American Experience has launched the Engineering Map of America. Their team has worked with content partners to map engineering feats across the United States on the interactive map, powered by Historypin. They’ve also updated the American Experience iPhone app, adding another chapter to the Abolitionist Map of America, and now including geolocated video content of America’s most amazing construction projects. Check out their video below about the app.

Spending Australia Day with the Royal Australian Historical Society

Australia day is celebrated on 26th January, and we took the occasion to ask a few questions of the folks at the Royal Australian Historical Society (RAHS), who recently joined Historypin.  We fully intend to take them up on their offer of tea the next time we’re in Sydney, and hope you do too!

Stepping to Health in 1938, shared by the Royal Australian Historical Society

Can you tell us a little bit about the RAHS and its history?

The RAHS is a voluntary organisation that exists to encourage the study of and interest in Australian history. It provides opportunities for people to engage with Australian history in a number of different ways: participating in historical research; attending lectures, discussions, tours, conferences and workshops; enjoying RAHS publications; using the RAHS library and online resources. The Society was founded in 1901 at a time when history in Australia was very British in origin and focus. RAHS members were at the forefront of promoting all aspects of Australia’s past including Aboriginal, colonial, convict and migrant experiences. In 1906 the Society began to publish the Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society (JRAHS), now the longest established journal on Australian history. The RAHS continues to build on its pioneering origins to reflect the changing ways in which we can engage with the past. However we do like to honour old traditions. So if people are visiting Sydney, they are more than welcome to drop into History House, home of the RAHS, and have a cup of tea.

Why did you choose Historypin as a platform to share some of your collections, and how does it fit into RAHS strategy?

The founding members of the RAHS believed that it was critical to establish photographic collections that captured Australia’s history. Their focus in 1901 was on preserving images of buildings that were to be demolished by Sydney City Council. By 1917 the Society’s glass slide collection was established, with the donation of 180 slides by James Watson, the Society’s Honorary Secretary. Many of the slides in this collection were used by members to illustrate lectures and were also reproduced in the JRAHS. Historypin is therefore an ideal platform for the RAHS since it continues this tradition of openness and accessibility to images that help us understand the changing nature of the spaces in which we live and work.

Tell us a bit about the collections you’re featuring and how you chose them.

We have been featuring images from the RAHS photographic collection that includes over 20,000 original glass and film negatives, slides and prints. The way in which the RAHS approaches its selection of images and collections for inclusion on Historypin is largely based on what the RAHS is engaged with at a particular time. Our initial focus has been on images taken and collected by former president of the RAHS, Frank Walker (1861 – 1948). Walker cycled almost 35,000 kilometres around New South Wales taking thousands of images on glass plate negatives. In 1913, Walker was President of the RAHS in the centenary year of the first crossing of the Blue Mountains by European explorers. In 2013 we featured images Walker captured during the centenary celebrations, including glass slides and cuttings from the scrapbooks he compiled. In 2014 the RAHS will be looking to have collections connected to what happened after Europeans crossed the mountains, in particular the impact of European inland settlement of New South Wales.

Do you have a favorite image on Historypin from your collection? 

The RAHS is currently putting together a collection that explores the way in which Australians celebrated the Sesquicentenary of European settlement in 1938, and of the various meanings attributed to Australia’s national day. This collection will act as a fitting lead up to Australia Day 2014, when the RAHS will open the doors of its beautiful heritage building ‘History House’ to the public and will host talks on Australian history by its own historians. Our favourite image at the moment shows the ‘Peter’s Ice Cream’ float on parade on Australia Day 1938 (above). The detail and workmanship of the float in the image illustrates the enthusiasm with which Australians took to celebrating its national day. We also like the fact that eating ice cream meant ‘ stepping to health’ in 1938.

For those of us not familiar, what is Australia Day and how do people celebrate it?

Australia Day, the 26th January, marks the anniversary of the arrival of the British First Fleet in 1788. Modern Australia is a nation of diversity and the way in which it is celebrated and commemorated has evolved over time. It wasn’t until 1935 that all the Australian states and territories started to even use the term ‘Australia Day’ to mark the arrival of the First Fleet. In 2014 Australia Day is celebrated with community festivals, concerts and citizenship ceremonies, in many communities and cities around the country. However it is not just a day of celebration, but one of commemoration. Members of the Indigenous community have regarded it as a day of British invasion, and subsequently a major turning point in the history of the Australian Aboriginal community. The 1938 sesquicentenary was, therefore, commemorated by some as a Day of Mourning.

More information on the history of Australia Day and the 2014 activities can be found at http://www.australiaday.org.au/.


Does your organization have something you’d like to share with readers of the Historypin blog, an anniversary or special new collection shared on Historypin?  Let us know as we’d love to feature it!

Time-lapse: Watching the Mission Change Around Us

We’ve been playing around with different ways to express the changes in our neighborhoods on Historypin, including the use of Repeats on our Apps, but I decided to give time-lapse photography a go.  In the following two sets, I took a picture about every day (yeah it is time to see Smoke again) to try to capture the construction that’s been happening on our block in San Francisco’s Mission District over the last year. It looks pretty cool in Street View, and updates the views that are currently preserved there.

Check out the videos, and we’d love to hear what you think about the changes in the neighborhood as well (just hit the comments below).

Click the image to see the video in action.

Click the image to see the time-lapse video on Street View

Memories of John F. Kennedy

Photograph of Kennedy Family with Dogs During a Weekend at Hyannisport, 08/14/1963, shared by US National Archives.

President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963, fifty years ago this week.  It was a defining moment for America, and almost anyone who is old enough to have memories at that age can tell you exactly where they were when they heard the news.

Many families have stories, memories, and memorabilia of the Kennedy family, and we invite you to pin yours on Historypin, where they can be explored together with some of the amazing archival photos you’ll find on the map.  There are some great photos that have been mapped by members from the JFK Library, and from the National Archives (photo above). Of course there are many commemoration events and stories this week, and you might also want to view and share touching stories from the JFK Library on their site, An Idea Lives On.

Click the map to find content tagged with "kennedy." Please add "John F. Kennedy" or "Kennedy" as a tag to any photos or memorabilia you add and it will be added to this map view. Some of these photos are located on John F. Kennedy streets, which is interesting as well!

For me, growing up in a Catholic family in the midwest, very active in the social justice activism of the time, Kennedy was a very big deal.  My dad was a priest then and his colleague at the Catholic diocesan newspaper took this photo of him with JFK during a 1959 campaign fundraiser in Lafayette, Indiana. You can imagine my surprise in finding that one in the family photo album when I was studying American history in middle school! I also remember discovering the Vaughn Meader First Family parody album. Does your family have any photos or memorabilia to share?

Fr. Joe Voss, Fr. Ted Zimmer, an unidentified nun, and John F. Kennedy on the campaign trail in 1959.

Vintage Rebecka and Modern Day Bob

Terry Watts Radar tracker at London Airport. Shared by Mirrorpix Archives

We have a couple–actually now 3!– duplicate names in our office: Rebekkah/Rebecka, Alex/Alex, and Max/Max, which sometimes gets confusing. One nickname that has stuck is “Vintage Rebecka,” for Rebecka Mustajarvi, our Office Manager in London and resident time traveler. The consensus is that you won’t ever see Rebecka dressed out of 1930′s or 1940′s vintage period clothing. While we spend so much time with sepia toned photos of the day at Historypin, she is the constant and joyful reminder that the world of the early twentieth century was most certainly in color.

However, our San Francisco and London offices are in frequent communications via the tools of the modern day, usually via Google Hangout and Skype. This kind of teleportation causes a serious problem for time travelers like Rebecka, as the use of a modern day Plantronics-type headset completely throws off the dynamics.  It seemed to me that we needed to turn to period communication devices to complete the picture.  With that in mind, we picked up a vintage WWII era headset on eBay and I quickly got to work in replacing the guts of the device with a USB headset.

Like usual, I bit off more than I could chew and before I could even heat up the soldering iron, I realized I needed help.  But who could help? Telephone repair shop? TV repair shop? iPhone repair shop?  The first two are very rare to come by, and the latter laughed me out of the store.

Bob Maring at work on the delicate operation

I am lucky enough to have parents that live in a retirement community in Michigan, and these places, if you don’t know, are treasure troves of wisdom and knowledge.  My folks connected me with Bob Maring, a retired electrical engineer who volunteered to help me out. Over the course of a few days, Bob put at least 5 or so hours of work into sorting out the old wiring and troubleshooting our USB replacements.  We both learned a bit about USB circuitry and as a bonus, I got to learn a little bit about his life and adventures as well (though he stayed pretty focused on the task at hand).

Bob with the finished headset.

Needless to say, when we sent the headset over to London, Rebecka was thrilled.  Granted, the heavy plastic, metal and glass unit weighs about 2 pounds, but life wasn’t easy back then!  Thanks again Bob, some choice biscuits coming your way!

Rebecka in action. Picture credit goes to Rebekkah with the sneak paparazzi approach!

Sandy: one year later

Photo and caption shared by Folklorist: "In the Town of Hempstead on Long Island there once stood approximately 34 bay houses like this one. All but 14 were destroyed by Sandy including this one."

Oct. 29 marks the one year anniversary since Hurricane Sandy made landfall, and while much of the debris has been cleared, there remains so much work to be done in the physical and emotional rebuilding of the loss and destruction.

We welcome you to participate in Hurricane Sandy: Record, Remember, and Rebuild, which provides a place to share photos, video, or audio that capture areas effected by the storm. The project has been created in partnership with Google, the Metropolitan New York Library Council, the Society of American Archivists, and the American Association for State and Local History.

As an example of some of the content being shared, see recent photos like the one featured above from Long Island Traditions, which document the Bay Houses near the town of Hempstead, most of which were lost to Sandy.

Share your own photos and memories, and help track the recovery and rebuilding in your own neighborhood.

Historypin Northeast Stops

View from the Depot Street Bridge looking South. Shared by the Bellows Falls Historical Society.

I’ll be giving some talks and workshops next week across the Northeastern US, hope you can come out to hear about the latest in Historypin developments and share your Historypin projects with us!

10/28 Philadelphia, Chemical Heritage Foundation free public talk, 12noon

10/29 New York City, small roundtable, email me if you’re interested.

11/1  Woodstock, VT. Woodstock Digital Media Festival, free public talk and Historypin workshop (along with an entire day of amazing programming)