With the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand last week, we’re now officially entering the Centenary of the First World War (or WWI as we call it in the States). We’ll be sharing a lot of exciting projects we’re involved in over the coming weeks and months, but for now many of us on the Historypin team are getting deep into research of all types. My own personal research has revolved around my grandfather’s WWI journal, complete with a couple dozen tiny photographs. As I’ve shared these resources with my extended family, more pieces of the picture are coming into focus (oh!). Just today I received the original Kodak Vest Pocket Camera my grandfather used in the war from my cousin Dan, who received the camera as a gift from my grandfather many years ago. I’m looking forward to figuring out how we’ll incorporate the use of this camera for one of our many First World War projects!
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?”
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.
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.
Hello from Max Baumgarten and Kerri Young, Project Officers at Historypin, here to tell you about our experience at the 2014 National Council on Public History conference in Monterey, California last week:
This year’s National Council on Public History conference was held in Monterey, California, which lucky for us, is only a two-hour drive from the Historypin office in San Francisco. Taking a day-long road trip from San Francisco to Monterey gave us the opportunity to drive along the Pacific Coast Highway, snack on salt water taffy, and, of course, learn about some new and exciting developments and projects in the field of public history.
With projects like Sourdough & Rye, Year of the Bay, Europeana 1989, Historypin is constantly trying to engage with history in an effort to cultivate communities and create local connections. This year’s NCPH conference—with its theme of Sustainable Public History—was the ideal place to learn about other projects with similar goals. That is, the desire to preserve historical resources while still aiming to meet the needs of the present and future.
Some fun activities we engaged in included some speed networking, a panel exploring the teaching of sustainability through digital Los Angeles, talking with local history vendors in the exhibit hall, and attending a panel on an oral history endeavor here in the Bay Area from the National Park Service and UC Berkeley’s Regional Oral History Office (ROHO).
The panel Crowdsourcing and Public History: Reports from the Field was particularly insightful. Anthea Hartig of the California Historical Society talked about their collaboration with Historypin for their exhibit Curating the Bay: Crowdsourcing a New Environmental History. As many may have read about from us, this exhibit incorporated our Year of the Bay project in the form of a touch screen and pinning station, the latter for visitors to bring in their Bay Area memories to scan into the project. The exhibit itself asked visitors to help solve some Bay history mysteries, and in conjunction with this Historypin rolled out our mystery-solving interface for the first time. From the perspective of the California Historical Society, the power of Historypin lies in our layered sense of place, and its ability to let users travel back in time. Visitors had fun exploring contributed memories within the exhibit on the touch screen, though they were also more comfortable contributing their own memories at home rather than bring in photos to a pinning station. Other thoughts from Anthea included the success in utilizing the SF Chronicle to post history mysteries (with the photos also pinned to Year of the Bay), the relative ease in tracking Historypin site activity through Google Analytics, and the fact that most interaction with CHS photos occurred over social media (including mysteries). Overall (and we agree), it was a hard sell asking people to bring in photos physically to scan onto our website, even with a Project Officer stationed there; the project’s success relies on building trust from both individuals and institutions before they can contribute, and this takes many months after the project launch to gain traction (and more than the couple of months the exhibit was open).
Rebecca Federman from the New York Public Library’s talked about the menu transcribing project, What’s on the Menu?; so far, volunteers have helped to transcribe over 17,000 historic menus, helping to track food trends over time. Crowdsourcing the history of lunch certainly brought out food enthusiasts to help, as well as community groups and individuals. Hiring interns to do outreach over social media, designing a simple interface, creating simple how-to’s, and getting rid of registration were and are all crucial to the project’s success, though a lack of the latter makes it harder to track the user base. Creating more targeted events to do this, as well as thinking about how the project can be transferred over for researchers in the future were some thoughts for moving forward.
Lorraine McConaghy from the Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry spoke about her ambitious efforts to crowdsource Civil War history in the state of Washington, so local residents could participate in the ongoing national discussion about the war in the Pacific Northwest and its meaning. Some lessons learned was that the project needed a more streamlined process for dealing with the tech involved, that it needed more volunteers or interns to answer daily inquiries, more training days for the public, and that the facilitators underestimated how much editing they would need to maintain consistency. However, the project gained about 150 solid readers to analyze Civil War texts; the appeal lay in the fact that what they were exploring was not known before about the Civil War in the Pacific Northwest, and that participants found out lots of new information only obtained through deep reading.
While each of these wonderful crowdsourcing projects have adopted distinct approaches to crowdsourcing history, they collectively see public engagement as a key strategy for creating and making accessible new kinds of history. Engagement in these projects are what makes them successful; a comment, suggestion, or annotation can make all the difference in measuring a project’s success. For us at Historypin, there is always much to learn on the crowdsourcing front, and being able to connect and learn from others who are using similar or different approaches is invaluable.
Overall, this was a very insightful trip and a great national gathering, and we met many public historians doing great work. We hope to see you at the next one!
-Max Baumgarten and Kerri Young
Name: Joyce Yu
Why did you want to intern at Historypin?
I love maps and I love storytelling. Historypin combines those two things together. I’m in what’s known as the Digital Humanities and Historypin is one of my favourite examples of how digital tools can be paired with areas in the Humanities and Social Sciences to create an incredibly unique way to share and display content.
How did you come to hear of the project?
I originally found Historypin by searching through the App store on my iPhone. I was interested in seeing if there were any established applications that allowed users the ability to geolocate their current locations and show them old images or interactive media of the same location. From there, I was lead to the website and different forms of social media associated with Historypin.
Describe an average day for you as a Historypin Intern
Every day brings something different and another cool project to explore. There have been several days where the focus was on uploading stories and photos to finish a project. There could be a few days where I’m meeting participants who are testing the interface of the website and another day where I’m looking at art from World War 1.
What do you do when you’re not at Historypin?
I’m not from London so I’ve spent a lot of time walking around and getting lost in neighbourhoods. I think the best way to explore a city is to get lost and see what unfolds. I also like to pretend that I’m a local, but my tendency to walk around with my neck angling towards the sky trying to find a street sign gives me away, every time. I’m also finishing my thesis on psychogeography and digital mapping so there are days when I’m tucked away in a coffee shop with my laptop.
What’s been your best moment here?
There have been many, but it was a great moment to see images on a spreadsheet become a collection of stories on a finished project (Europeana 1989). It’s also been really fun to see how all the pieces fall together from behind the scenes.
What is the oddest job you’ve been asked to do in the name of Historypin?
Honestly, I can’t think of anything that I’ve done here that’s odd. Although, I had pockets of missing knowledge from World War 1 that I can now say have been successfully filled.
What excites you the most about Historypin?
I love the way that maps and city spaces can be represented with memories and stories. I’ve found myself thinking, “how do we show that on a map?” every time someone shows me a collection of photos or even a spreadsheet of data.
This is one of my favourite places in my hometown and I grew up walking up and down these streets. Historical factoid: This would have been the first point of contact with the city when new settlers would see when they got off the train.
What’s your favourite photo that has been pinned to the Historypin map and why?
What kind of content would you like to see more of on Historypin?
This may only be tangentially related, but I would love to see a collection of people’s individual mental maps overlayed on top of the conventional map. We all see and navigate our city a little differently and it would be really interesting to see how that changes over time.
What do you think the future of Historypin is?
I can only see Historypin growing bigger because of how many bridges it has to different worlds. The projects work on such an incredible interdisciplinary level that brings people from the digital world, history, design, archives…it’s all relevant and everyone’s excited. I see great things.
Recently, we’ve started rolling out some exciting new history mysteries from our Year of the Bay project. Every week, we’ve been picking photos pinned to the project that we need more information on-whether a date, location, business information, etc.-and ask for your help in finding out more about it. This is great chance for us to harness the power of crowdsourcing, in order to help build more accurate data for local collections; in this case those in the San Francisco Bay Area. Using social media via our Facebook and Twitter feeds to open up conversations over these local mysteries, we’ve asked for your help and have already seen some great interactions and feedback.
Our most recent mystery was a stunning color photo taken after the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco (above), discovered only recently by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. After posting about it, we got some great responses from those such as @VisitCalifornia, @DataPointed, and Chris Salvano. Chris, a librarian and archivist, even made an awesome Google Map with all photo’s known data points:
We love when you cite sources in your comments, and with this particular history mystery we’ve gotten some great ones:
With these sources and more, we have been able to narrow down the location where Ives stood to take the photo down to a single block! We’ve also moved the pin on Historypin:
We are keeping all of these mysteries open, so if you come across one that has gone out a week or two ago that you want to comment one, don’t hesitate to! Explore our Facebook page and look out for the posts with hashtag #historymystery to see all the ones we’ve done.
Thanks to all of those who have engaged with these mysteries so far, and we look forward to finding out to solving more photo mysteries with you!
Self-improvement is very important to us here at Historypin, and this month we’re working on developing new tools and refining current ones on our website. We couldn’t do it without you though, so we’re looking for some eager participants who would like to come in to the office, have a cuppa and test some current and new features on the Historypin website with one of our team members.
We’re looking for people who are fairly new to Historypin, so if you’re a long-time user, introduce us to one of your friends or family members and come along! We’d love to meet you and send you both home with some swag that includes some of our We Are What We Do stationery ( http://shop.wearewhatwedo.org/stationeryrange/ ), Historypin stickers and postcards.
If you’d like to participate, please fill out our contact form here and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible!
We have limited spaces for participants so we’ll contact people in the order that they respond. We are looking for relatively new users to Historypin, but if you’ve been following Historypin for awhile and forward this post to someone new, we’d love to meet both of you.
Participants will get a sneak peak at new features to the Historypin website and give direct input on how they can be refined. We’ll ask you to test a few simple tasks using new/existing tools and ask that you to share your experience.
We’ll be working out of our London office, so apologies for those who aren’t local. More details on the location will be sent out when we start contacting participants.
Once we start receiving participation requests, we’ll start sending out specific times and dates for you to choose from. We are looking for people on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays during the daytime.
It will be a completely painless process – promise! We will need approximately 1 ½ hour of your time and you’re welcome to withdraw at any time. This would include a short interview, a set of tasks involving tools on the Historypin website, and a brief exit questionnaire. And, don’t forget about that cuppa.
In this edition of Better Know an Archivist (thanks Stephen Colbert), we talk to Vicki Tobias at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Archives.
Historypin: What do you do, exactly?
Vicki Tobias: Since 2010 I’ve served as the Images and Media Archivist for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Archives.
I’ve always loved history. I’m a fanatical genealogist and love nothing more that tackling a good history mystery, whether my own or someone else’s. I feel quite lucky/blessed to have landed a career that perfectly marries my love of history and enthusiasm for sharing it!
How and when did you come across Historypin and what made you decide it was worth pursuing for UW and your work?
A friend and colleague who works for the Wisconsin Historical Society initially introduced me to Historypin – maybe two years ago? I was immediately impressed with the organization’s mission statement which talked about bringing together generations through shared history. This idea is at the core of our work in the UW Archives. Historypin is a great tool for showing change over time and is the type of tool/project that inspires a user to further explore their own place in history. Any tool that prompts a user to ask “I wonder what was here 100 years ago?” or “I wonder what’s there now?” is a success in my book.
In the UW Archives, we host a bevy of volunteer, intern, practicum and paid student staff. They all want to work on projects that include a “technology element.” Building a collection in Historypin from start to finish (e.g. scanning, researching metadata, uploading, outreach, etc.) provides our students an opportunity to apply technology skills in an archives environment and results in a great end-product they can then link to on a resume or application. We’ve had great success with students creating Collections in Historypin.
You’ve got a great variety of photos across campus, and we’ve noticed these amazing scrapbook collections you’ve been sharing lately. What can you tell us about the scrapbooks, and do you have a strategy in sharing these?
Why, thank you! We’ve had great fun selecting content to add to our Historypin collection. I wanted our campus history collection (on Historypin) to include more than a bunch of photos of historic buildings. I thought it would be interesting to try to tell a student’s story using Historypin and items from historic student scrapbooks. The UW Archives has a great (and growing) collection of scrapbooks dating from the late 1880s through the 1960s. They include all sorts of memorabilia, photos, clippings and other “bits and pieces” that wonderfully illuminate the college student experience. Selecting and pinning location-based items provides a different and more nuanced interpretation of each scrapbook – allowing a user to better understand the places and spaces inhabited by a student during a particular period in our campus and town history. For example, an invitation to a dance held at the Stock Pavilion on campus (still in existence), a monthly bill for items purchased from a “sweet shop” on Capitol Square (no longer there), a photo taken during summer vacation “up north” in Wisconsin. When viewed on a Historypin map, these items prompt a user to ponder questions of mobility and transportation (How did one traverse the distance from campus to the aforementioned sweet shop – walking? trolley car? Were there sidewalks? Horses?), use of space on campus (Dances held in the Stock Pavillion? Really?) and other questions that might not be apparent when simply flipping through a scrapbook. Seeing items on a map presents an entirely different view of the story being told by the scrapbook creator.
What excites you most about Historypin, and how do you envision it being utilized at UW and other college campuses?
I love the idea of user-generated content. It would be fabulous if other campus units with an interest in building community around shared campus history could collaboratively build collections in Historypin. Likewise, I think Historypin might be an interesting tool for uniting alumni to build collections that illuminate their shared experiences.
What is your favourite piece of content that you have pinned?
Last year, we built a new collection – Lawrence Monthey: 1959 Tour of the Soviet Union which documents this UW faculty person’s trip to that region. The slides are beautiful (and in color!) and include images of many iconic locations in the former Soviet Union. I love the following photo of St. Basil’s Cathedral (Sept. 1959) and the juxtaposition of the historic and current street views.
It’s one of my favorite UW Archives collections and a perfect fit for Historypin.
From pinathons to storytelling sessions, we love hearing about all the different ways that people around the world are using Historypin with their communities. So this week we’re excited to have a guest post from Charlotte Goodhart (@CharGoodhart) who was part of the team from the Jewish Community Centre running a Historypin workshop at the ‘Jewish East End Extravaganza’ last month. If you too have been using Historypin in interesting ways, let us know!
On the 27th January, the Jewish Community Centre for London held the ‘Jewish East End
Extravaganza’, at Rich Mix in Bethnal Green. The event consisted of a variety of different activities including workshops about the traditional trades of the East End, a food stand hosted by Kosher Roast and walking tours of the area led by Rachel Kolsky.
Myself and Alex Eisenberg work with the Jewish Community Centre for London and as part of the day we used Historypin to create a digital map of the Jewish East End. Prior the event, we created our own Historypin Channel and put out a call for photographs and memories of area from people who had lived there or had other family ties to the area.
We hit gold when we were able to access the archives at The Jewish Museum, which contains thousands of fantastic images. Luckily for us, the museum has been very strict about keeping records of donated images, so we were able to access a wealth of information about what we were looking at.
We also met with some people, who are still living in east London and made a trip to Stepney Jewish Day Centre, where staff pulled out a treasure trove, in the form of a ‘memories box’ that contained hundreds of photos and albums from the last century. These included photos of the Queen Mother in Stepney when she visited the Synagogue in 1956! We also spoke with visitors to the centre about their experiences of the East End, many of whom are in their 80s and 90s and had many stories to share.
On the day itself, we weren’t sure what to expect! We set up a ‘mapping hub’ (pictured below) on the stage at Rich Mix, with a couple of computers, a scanner and a projector showing some photos we had already collected.
Despite some glitches (a very late tech man and a very temperamental scanner) the day was a great success and both Alex and myself got to meet some fascinating characters, including a man whose father was a famous East End ballroom dancer that is rumoured to have impressed Fred Astaire! Here he is with his dance partner looking very dapper:
The marketing team at the JCC had made public requests for more images and we were pleasantly surprised by the amount of response we received – I am still in the process of uploading the images shared with us!
Everyone was keen to see what we were doing and find out about any plans for the future. There was a lot of positive response from visitors who were enthusiastic about the importance of preserving the history of the Jewish East End, especially as there is now only a very small and elderly community there, the majority of the community having moved away in the decades following the Second World War.
Historypin is the perfect space for the preservation of this history, due to its simplicity in use and its mass availability. We hope to extend the project, first across London and perhaps later in other parts of the UK. Many people who attended were disappointed that the specification was just for photos of the East, as their parents and grandparents had lived around Soho and Bloomsbury before the Second World War. Equally, whilst London was the starting point for so many Jewish migrants, it wasn’t the only place; many went to Liverpool, Glasgow Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle and even Bristol – this really shows the potential for a long term, more inclusive project.
The project is ongoing and if you would like to be involved or you have some images you would like added, please do email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A while back I wrote about the fantastic Samuel Butler Project and a couple of weeks ago I got a chance to see it in action when I went down to their Butler Day – Adventures in Italy Exhibition. A series of enlightening talks and beautiful photos brought this fascinating Victorian polymath to life.
But one of the most exciting parts had to be seeing Historypin on touch screens! The folks at St John’s College Library had embedded their Historypin Channel on their own website which was displayed on some whizzy touch screens around the room.
So as well as hearing about Butler’s travels across Europe and seeing some beautiful prints of the images he took, visitors were able to link photo and places by browsing through their Historypin Channel.
We’ve seen organisations doing all sorts of cool things with their Channel, from app walking trails to bus shelters, but we’re pretty sure that Samuel Butler Project wins the prize for being the first to put their Channel on touch screens. (If we’re wrong, let us know!)
We hope its the first of many more innovative and interactive exhibitions integrating Historypin in imaginative ways. If you’ve done fun things with your Historypin Channel and your community or exhibits, let us know!
I went to Washington DC on inauguration day, January 21, 2013. I arrived late in the evening, but had seen some of President Obama’s speech on tv earlier in the day. Of course, it was Martin Luther King, Jr. day as well, and I took to heart the call to national service, and indeed was honored to have the opportunity to spend the next day together with staff at our National Archives and Records Administration, and proud to be of service to my country in some small way. Update: the public talk I gave is available here, and slides here.
Seriously. Maybe it sounds stupid, but there are a lot of ways to serve your country. To me, figuring out ways to make our national cultural heritage relevant and accessible and inspiring and collaborative for the country and for the world is pretty damn patriotic. And the men and women within our nation’s institutions that are fighting to do this are heroes in my mind. They’re fighting against hundreds of years of bureaucratic layers of red tape, and trying to do monumental things with very limited budget, with more cuts on the way.
There are many at NARA, the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian, the National Park Service, NEH, NEA, IMLS and many other agencies, that are so passionate about our cultural memory and heritage that they’re willing to stick it out to help bring these institutions into a new era. One in which the data and assets so long in the stewardship and care of government agencies will begin to see new light, inspire new uses, enable new inventions, and create economic opportunities that we can only just begin to imagine. I’ve had the great privilege to work with and spend time with many of these people, and to learn about the behind-the-scenes work going into these efforts.
The ever-expanding holdings of our federal libraries, archives, and museums are in good hands, being preserved and maintained against the ravages of time by experts. These holdings, or some digital representation of them, and the metadata about them, are beginning to be made available en masse for new uses already. But it needs to continue in order to allow for research and business to grow around it; and to become a more participatory endeavor for social good, as Nick and Nick have discussed in the UK; and how Carl Malamud so eloquently and powerfully put it in his remarks at a memorial for Aaron Swartz last week.
Maybe a part of our service to our country is just to help connect the dots of the global groundswell. To fan the flames and continue to build and share use cases that show what people can do with cultural heritage data, how it can be used to help us understand our past, and understand each other. Maybe it’s part of our service to join with the many others that continue the work of the dreamers that dared to stand up to make us all a little bit better. To those who are fighting the good fight in DC: we thank you. Please know that you’re not alone.