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.

Historypin and American Experience on the upcoming Abolitionists Series

For history geeks and historical documentary lovers like us, American Experience is the big leagues. So you can imagine how thrilled we were to be approached by the producers of “tv’s most-watched history series” to discuss working together.  Having logged countless couch hours watching their documentaries, we jumped at the chance of working with their fabled team to kickstart a campaign around “Mapping History.”

We’re excited to be playing a part in their new three-part series, The Abolitionists, airing beginning January 8 on PBS.  As part of the extensive online interactive components of the series, you’ll find The Abolitionist Map of America, and an exclusive iPhone App, which highlights photographs, audio and video from the film, as well as content from the many cultural heritage partners that contributed source material, and even individual users.

Watch Map History With Us! on PBS. See more from American Experience.

It’s the first time the Historypin framework has been utilized to support a film, and offers a new and unique way of highlighting the source materials featured throughout.  The embedded map and gallery browsers give viewers the ability to spatially explore the content and see how the story fits into local history, while at the same time digging deeper into the source collections, and even adding their own comments and stories to each individual piece of content.  From the producers perspective, it adds a participatory element that gives content providers and viewers a voice within the narrative, and a new lens for the filmmakers to highlight the curatorial aspect of their work.  Finally, cultural heritage partners have been enthusiastic about the Historypin integration because it gives them a chance to bring viewers deeper into their collections without leaving the environment of the film.

You can expect to see more exciting projects like this in the coming year, and we’ll be creating greater integration of other documentary content into the main Historypin site.

Read More about the Abolitionists and the Abolitionist Map of America:
Official press release from the PBS Pressroom
–Post about the project from Inside American Experience
–Post about the project from Out of the Box, the Library of Virginia’s blog.
–Post about the project from This Morning Is History, a blog by the Delaware Historical Society
Cincinnati Herald story about the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County involvement in the project.

Historypin on the Radio, plus how-to’s in Australian!

We’ve been getting lots of love in Australia lately! Most recently, one of our partners, Museum Victoria, did a radio interview about their contributions to Historypin.

The fabulous Ely Wallis alerted us to it with a Tweet.  Thanks Ely and Gerard Callinan at the ABC! You can have a listen to it here: gc-history-pin-23-7.

And if that wasn’t enough, we heard from our friends over at the Bright Ideas Blog, which is a fantastic resource from the School Library Association of Victoria and the State Library of Victoria.  It turns out they’ve used Storify to create an embeddable resource guide on how to get started pinning on Historypin, full of all sorts of video tips on using our site!  Thanks for creating such a great resource–you guys are the best!  We’ve embedded the videos below–very clever!

Innovation requires Improvisation

I had the great privilege to travel to New Zealand at the end of last year to attend the National Digital Forum in Wellington, which was an amazing international gathering of innovators in the technology and cultural heritage space.  I also took part in LODLAM-NZ, hosted and organized by DigitalNZ.

All of the videos from the presentations have been online for awhile now, and all of them are well worth taking a look–I’m serious.  Eleanor Whitworth wrote up a fantastic summary of the conference as well.

I was invited to give a 7 minute ignite talk about Historypin and Linked Open Data in libraries, archives, and museums.  Unfortunately, I had A/V difficulties that turned my talk into a comedy of errors.  Of course my Kiwi hosts were generous with my alloted time and also spooned out plenty of good natured teasing.  The video is basically an outtake (I’d do it over if I could! Especially the important National Archives photo-fade marking the beginning of the forced detainment of Japanese Americans during WWII, which is when my video flipped on), but I thought it was worth sharing if for no other reason than to illustrate that part of innovating is failing.  Sometimes we come up short, and sometimes things fall apart in front of an international audience of our colleagues.  But in my mind at least, innovation also requires improvisation, humility, and a good sense of humor.

The missing slides that I had to work through with interpretive dance are in the Slideshare below the video.

Wessex Film and Sound Archive

Oxford Road, ReadingClick here to watch the video

As part of ‘Pinning Reading’s History‘ we approached Wessex Film and Sound Archive about sharing some of their films of Reading. With over 35,000 films and sound recordings, they are a rich resource for recordings relating to Southern England.

They were keen to get involved and have shared some great clips from their archive, including Reading Town Centre (when there were still trams on Oxford Road) and how biscuits were made at Huntley and Palmers.

You can find out more about Wessex Film and Sound Archive here, on their Flickr page and by following them on @WessexFilm.

If you’d like to share video or audio recordings from your collection on Historypin, contact Rebekkah on rebekkah.abraham@wearewhatwedo.org.

Leyland Festival on the Map

Leyland FestivalClick to watch the Leyland Festival video

Thanks to brian.taylor50 who has shared this great video clip of the 1975 Leyland Festival in Lancashire. Dating back to the 1890s when it was know as the ‘May Festival’, it has been revived in recent years.

Do you remember the Leyland Festival? Share your photos or stories about it, and help build up the history of the festival from the 1890s to today.

If you’d like to share video or audio recording on Historypin, contact Rebekkah on rebekkah.abraham@wearewhatwedo.org.

Martin Luther King III at Historypin Launch Event

We were honored to have special guest Martin Luther King III at our July 11, 2011 launch event at the Museum of the City of New York. He shared a wonderful photo on Historypin last week and talked about the importance of the photo to him, as well as the potential for Historypin to help pass on stories and connections through the generations.

You can see this photo on the Historypin map as well.

Historypin Launch is Almost Here!


I put together this little video about how we’ve been preparing for the July 11, 2011 launch with a world tour, including a Webby Award.  Of course it doesn’t capture all of the amazing hard work happening, and I had the lucky job of receiving awards and traveling around the world, but you get the idea.Special thanks to the Webby Awards for honoring us with the Webby Award for best website in the Non-profit/Charity category, and for their images of the fantastic award ceremony.

Special thanks to our launch partners in New York: The Museum of the City of New York, New York Public Library, and the Brooklyn Museum.

Historic image courtesy of Museum of the City of New York: http://bit.ly/o1LSeu

Historic image courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum: http://bit.ly/q8Xsu7

Special thanks to @talktoteens, Charlotte Berry for her photo from their Historypin workshop. http://yfrog.com/h825wvqj(less info)

Also thanks to my 10 year old for letting me embarrass him in front of Mission Dolores while he tried his best to do a steady cam!

Jon