Seeking Contributions to Remember Abraham Lincoln

The following is a guest blog post from the crack team at Ford’s Theatre, who are combing personal and institutional collections the world over to help document, recreate, and share the sentiments of the days following Lincoln’s assassination.  Do you have something to contribute?

The assassination of President Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., on Friday, April 14, 1865, shook the nation and the world. People expressed a range of emotions—shock, sadness, jubilation—and shared their thoughts and feelings in a wide variety of ways.

Phoenix Steam Fire Engine No. 3 of Detroit as it apeared in the funeral procession of the late President, shared by Detroit Historical Society

To capture that emotion and connect people with it today, we at the Ford’s Theatre Society, along with over a dozen partner organizations, are in the process of creating a digital collection called Remembering Lincoln.

Our goal is to make this national story local, for people around the United States and around the world. Yes, many of the major events took place in the area surrounding Washington. But literally millions of people turned out in the cities where Lincoln’s funeral train traveled, such as Columbus, Ohio.

Beyond those places, people mourned—and a few celebrated—in localities all over the map.  It has been remarkable to learn of the varied responses and letters of condolence that ambassadors and others received from around the globe.

To represent those responses – local to each community – Ford’s Theatre is working with a range of partner organizations—many of them state and local historical societies—to digitize relevant items in their collections. These can include diaries, newspapers, letters, photos, engravings, mourning ribbons, pieces of clothing, poems—any way that people represented their responses. We are in the process of creating a website to display those items.

Here  are some of the ways that people expressed their responses in the days and weeks after the assassination:

But we also know that our partner organizations don’t have all of the responses to the assassination in their collections. Many responses are hidden away, whether in libraries, archives, museums, local historical societies, or even people’s attics.  And those responses may help shed light on the world of 1865 and better understand how people were living their lives and who we are today as a result.

Thus, we’re working with Historypin to help surface some of these buried treasures. On our project page, you can see items that have come in—and pin your own!

Already, a treasure has come to the surface. Not long after we launched our project on April 14 (the 149th anniversary of the Lincoln assassination), Laura Goetz of Stevens Point, Wisconsin, remembered a display case in the Portage County Courthouse, where she often works. The display case contains items several items from Wisconsin soldier W.H. Noble, who served in the honor guard on Lincoln’s funeral train.

So, Laura went to the courthouse, took some photos, and started pinning them to Historypin! After we emailed with each other, she went to talk with the Clerk of Courts, who was thrilled that the items in the display case would be part of a national project. They managed to track down the owner—a descendant of Noble—and are working with her to digitize the items.

We need your help to bring more items like these to the surface! Do you, or does your organization, have a relevant response to the Lincoln assassination? Read more about what we’re looking for, then pin it to our Historypin page!

Once you do, we’ll ask you some questions about the item, and then potentially put it into the Remembering Lincoln digital collection.

Year of the Bay: Help Add Information to These Mid-Market Photographs From the San Francisco Public Library

The Mid-Market neighborhood of San Francisco, featuring the now demolished Granada Theater, 1922. From The San Francisco Public Library

Today The Bold Italic published another wonderful photo essay featuring Year of the Bay pins from our friends at the San Francisco Public Library, part of our monthly collaboration with the popular local San Francisco magazine to feature photographs of the city’s neightborhoods. This month feature’s San Francisco’s Mid-Market neighborhood, at the heard of the city’s downtown.

The Mid-Market neighborhood, also called Central Market, encompasses parts of the city’s Tenderloin, South of Market (SoMa), and Civic Center districts. Completely leveled after San Francisco’s devastating 1906 earthquake and fire, the area has since been known for its gritty and colorful character, and as the subject of many redevelopment plans and battles against gentrification. The wonderful photos from San Francisco Public Library show Mid-Market’s transformation over the last half of the 20th century, with the presence of now long-gone department stores, theaters, and shops.

The Regal Theater at 1046 Market St. Pinned by the SFPL to Year of the Bay.

We’ve mapped out these photos, and the SFPL asks that you help overlay them onto their modern-day locations and leave comments using our mystery-solving tools. Here are some quick tips:

  1. Go to yearofthebay.org and at the top right, log in with your Google, Facebook, or Twitter account. If you don’t have a Historypin account, create one for free!
  2. Back at www.yearofthebay.org, scroll down until you see the Mysteries Tab (default).
  3. On the left side, select Show me: Unsolved mysteries (also the default), and scroll down the list of Mid-Market mysteries (among others). If you want to see mysteries that other people have already commented on, tick Show Me: Under investigation on the left bar.
  4. Choose a photo from the list you want to help solve, and press Solve.
  5. Depending on what kind of mystery it is, the interface will prompt you to either enter a new date, find a new location, or overlay a photo onto Street View. Once you make your suggestion, you will be able to enter in why you’ve made the choice you have.
  6. That’s it!  Because this is a beta tool (which is to say we’re still working on it to make it better), if anything weird happens, feel free to comment on this blog post, or fill out this easy form to let us know what happened.

SFPL Mid-Market photographs, mapped out in Year of the Bay under the tag "mid-market." Click the image to explore the map.

Read The Bold Italic’s post featuring SFPL’s Mid-Market photos here, and visit the Year of the Bay project page to start overlaying the photos onto their modern-day locations and to leave comments. Don’t forget to share your mystery-solving skills with your friends!

Reflections on Putting Art on the Map

Over the last year we have been running Putting Art on the Map in partnership with the Imperial War Museum. With funding from the Nesta R&D Digital Innovation Fund we were able to test if crowdsourcing an art collection, in online and offline spaces, could generate deeper engagement with the collection. Through mystery-solving tools on Historypin and a series of live events with other institutional partners, we explored different ways of inviting the public to participate, collaborate and contribute new pieces of information to the artworks. The contributions fed into a co-curated Google Art Project by Dr Alice Strickland and the data gathered flowed back into IWMs’ collections.

Throughout the project there were strong examples of public contributions and evidence of deep engagement. However, the primary insight from by this project was that while metadata crowdsourcing in this form can deepen the social engagement of audiences that already have an interest in the subject or collection in question, it struggles to increase the initial breadth of engagement and does not show potential to engage new audiences.
In addition to this important distinction, we learned some key lessons about how to improve a crowdsouring project focusing on deepening engagement between interested audiences and an art collection:

  • Broad, open calls to action for people interested in First World War art were not effective in engaging a wider audience, while identifying specific communities of interest and requesting their help was more useful.
  • Inviting specific communities to engage their own existing networks was more effective in generating participation than trying to build a new community around a theme or topic
  • The ability to give clarity of purpose to participants in user-generated content projects is essential for their success, as is the need to explicitly value the expertise of users.
  • A high level of curatorial input from across different institutional departments, not just the art department, is important to ensure that the correct questions are being asked and participants feel their participation is genuinely needed and valued
  • Inviting factual contributions about an art collection is more challenging than other historical materials because of the role of artistic interpretation. This was often cited by participants who felt that it wasn’t possible or relevant to add factual details. Focusing on works which were more documentary in nature helped, but it was still a barrier to soliciting factual data.

Finally, the project raised new questions and highlighted several areas that need more research, experimentation and development to better understand them before effective tools, methods and outcomes can be determined. Of greatest interest to us is the relationship between online and offline participation. This offers great potential to increase and sustain engagement, but it is not yet clear how they relate in terms of participants moving between the two spaces, or with regard to if and how digital tools might be used during a live, group event. Over the coming year we will be continuing to explore these questions through other projects and iterating both our crowdsourcing toolset and methodologies for running collaborative, offline events.

We are compiling a full Research Report which we will post here once it is completed.

4 Major Efforts to Share European Cultural Heritage

This winter has seen a flurry of activity around a number of projects related to Europeana content, and the incredible work of partners across Europe helping to increase the discovery and reuse of European cultural heritage.  We’re excited to be involved in four major cross-European collaborative projects which are now underway.  And all of this is with a huge thanks to the Europeana Foundation team and the many many partners involved, for without their many years of groundbreaking work and diehard commitment to free and open access to culture, none of this would be possible.

Europeana Creative

We’ve talked about Europeana Creative before, and this project, now in its second year, is moving along full steam.  The Historypin team is primarily involved in creating the first prototype for the Social Networks pilot, which is one of five distinct pilot projects which will in turn lead to an Open Innovation Challenge for each category.  The first Challenge event will be taking place in Brussels on 29 April.  Our pilot will provide a new user interface to allow exploration, listening and enrichment of audio content from the Netherlands Institute of Sound and Vision and the British Library.

Europeana Creative has also just launched the Europeana Labs, which is a fantastic new way to explore and reuse the openly licensed content made available from cultural heritage institutions across Europe.

Breandán Knowlton, Digital Product Manager of We Are What We Do, who recently joined our team from the Europeana Foundation, explains the project together with some of the other project leaders and partners.

Europeana Sounds

Building off of our work in Europeana Creative, our role in Europeana Sounds is focused exclusively on using enrichment to increase access and reuse of the massive amounts of sound archives held in institutions across Europe.  The three year, €6.14m project brings together an incredible team of 24 project participants, including 8 national libraries, 5 archive and research centres, 2 other public bodies, 3 non-profit organizations, 3 universities, and 3 companies.  Together, we seek to meet the following objectives:

  • Increase the amount of audio content available via Europeana to over 1 million and improve geographical and thematic coverage by aggregating recordings with widespread popular appeal
  • Improve their access by enriching descriptions, developing techniques for cross-media and cross-collection linking
  • Develop audience-specific sound channels that will improve search facility, navigation and user experience
  • Promote the creative reuse of recordings 
  • Identify and advocate recommendations on how to resolve domain constraints and improve access to out of commerce audio content, working with music publishers and rights holders
  • Build a network of stakeholders: specialists in technology, rights issues, software development and sound archives. The network will expand to new content-providers and mainstream distribution platforms to ensure the widest possible availability.

Europeana Food and Drink

Focusing on the rich and vibrant food and drink culture and heritage across Europe, Europeana Food and Drink will engage the general public, creative industries, cultural heritage organisations and the food and drink industries in creating, sharing, learning and making use of food- and drink related content.

Historypin will focus on building links to diverse communities of interest while exploring unique ways that heritage assets can be reused to support community, business and tourism around our oldest and cherished communal pastimes of eating and drinking together.

The project brings together 28 partners from across 16 European countries and is led by the UK-based Collections Trust. Leading content providers, creative technologists and creative industry partners are working together in order to create an evocative suite of commercial applications and products featuring food- and drink related content catered to specific audiences.

Europeana Food and Drink will achieve its objectives by:

  • Discovering, preparing, licensing and uploading 50,000 – 70,000 unique high-quality digital assets and their associated metadata to Europeana
  • Engaging the general public, retailers and distributors in campaigns and in piloting and crowding activities to encourage them to share and make use of food- and drink related content
  • Working with creative industry partners to develop a suite of innovative creative and commercial applications
  • Enhancing unique ideas via Open Innovation Challenges and extending the Europeana Open Labs network
  • Developing and sharing new knowledge, understanding and guidance on successful public/private partnerships focused on digital cultural content.

Europeana 1989

Throughout 2014, community partners across Central and Eastern Europe will be gathering the stories and memories from 25 years ago, and the events surrounding the Fall of the Iron Curtain.  As the Europeana 1989 website so eloquently states, “The way history is recorded isn’t just about what museums and institutions think is important, it’s about what real people lived through and experienced.”

Share your own stories, or learn about some of the extraordinary stories have been shared, including a special focus now on the Baltic Way: the human chain spanning three countries.

Farewell to Wilma

We are very sad to say good bye to our lovely intern Wilma who has been brilliant and a huge help with our pinning needs over the last few months. Thanks Wilma!

Name: Wilma Stefani

Role: Historypin Intern

Why did you want to intern at Historypin?
As an archaeologist and videographer, I am interested in exploring ways of communicating historical themes to the general public, and I discovered Historypin during my MA in Digital Humanities: I thought this project was brilliant in giving people the opportunity to share their pictures and stories online, and I was interested in how they were using social media to achieve that.

How did you come to hear of the project?
My supervisor at King’s College. Dr. Stuart Dunn, suggested me to apply for an internship at Historypin, as it could be interesting as a case study for my dissertation, which aims at analysing users’ comments and responses to historical themes shared in online platforms.

Describe an average day for you as a Historypin Intern
Beside general tasks such as choosing the Pin of the Day and helping in organising images and videos uploaded by users, most of the time I was following a particular project, Putting Art on the Map, a project which invites the public to solve mysteries about the collection of paintings held at the Imperial War Museum. I’ve been creating some of the mysteries and collating and publishing the answers provided by the participants to the live events organised by Rebekkah and Alex, as well as keeping at the same time track of the content posted through social media.
What do you do when you’re not at Historypin?
I love Art in all its forms…films, music, dance, figurative arts, and London offers so much in terms of cultural events. When I have a day off I like visiting museums and going to the theatre.

What’s been your best moment here?
I had the opportunity to take part in a live event at the Gordon Museum, where some medical professionals provided information about a selection of IWM paintings with a medical subject. I was amazed by the engagement of the participants, they analysed the paintings discussing in group and they came out with some great responses.

What is the oddest job you’ve been asked to do in the name of Historypin?
Nothing really odd, but I may have developed new deciphering skills, as while transcribing the comments written by participants to the live events, I was trying to understand the sometime illegible calligraphy of some of them…!


What excites you the most about Historypin?
I think that the opportunity to pin the photos on the Street View is an excellent idea, visually intriguing and fun to do.

Can you show us a photo you have personally pinned on Historypin?
Not a photo but a painting, ”Con: Camp’ – Genoa’ by Olive Mudie-Cooke, from the IWM collection. It was exciting to discover that this corner of Genoa has barely changed since 1919: and also to find so many paintings depicting Italian landscapes, including some near my hometown, in the north of Italy. Now I’ll have to go to see them at the museum!

"'Con: Camp' - Genoa' by Olive Mudie-Cooke, shared by IWM

What’s your favourite photo that has been pinned to the Historypin map and why?I chose this photo as Pin of The Day, and I love it because I think it shows so well the contrasts and liveness of London, in the 60s as well as nowadays.

Carnaby Street, 1960, shared by robertloch

What kind of content would you like to see more of on Historypin?
I would be very happy to see more videos uploaded, especially black and white footage from the old days.

Why do you think people should add their photos and stories to Historypin?
I think one can see the intersection between family and national stories as something we all have in common as human beings and citizens. Historypin offers an online space where anyone can participate, making them appreciate the history and culture of the place where they live.

What do you think the future of Historypin is?
It would be great to see the project developing also in new countries: I think Historypin has a great potential in connecting people from different generations and backgrounds, and can also be increasingly used in schools to engage students with their past.

Contact:  wilmastefani.wordpress.com

wilmastefani@gmail.com

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.

Guest Post: Local Bay Area Photographer Lynne Buckner Shares Her Bayview/Hunter’s Point Story For Year of the Bay

An abandoned home in Hunter's Point Shipyard in San Francisco, 2004. Photo by Lynne Buckner.

We’re excited to share this great contribution from local Bay Area photographer Lynne Buckner, part of our Year of the Bay project. Lynne, a resident of the Bernal Heights neighborhood in San Francisco, pinned her photos and story of visiting the now ghost-like Hunter’s Point shipyard in San Francisco, once a commercial shipyard established in the 1870s and subsequently a naval base. The now desolate area, on the shores of the San Francisco Bay, is currently in the midst of a large redevelopment plan that will ultimately include up to 1,600 homes, 27% to 40% of which will be affordable, and 26 acres of open space. In 2004, Lynne created a set of photos of all the the shipyard houses front and back, as well as some interiors of the houses that were torn down to create the new housing area in what is known as parcel A.

Abandoned Japanese-style house on Innes St., Parcel A, 2004. Photo by Lynne Buckner.

She shares her experience here:

“In 2004 I was taking photo classes at CCSF. I was attracted to ghost towns and abandoned buildings and cabins and was looking for something I could photograph without traveling to the desert. I ended up in the industrial areas of Bayview Hunters Point. I really loved Hunters Point Shipyard, and used to go early on weekend mornings saying I was visiting an artist friend who had a studio. I would then drive around and photograph the buildings of the shipyard.  After being busted one too many times, I went to Lennar Corporation and asked permission. They granted me permission to photograph in “parcel A”, an abandoned neighborhood on a hill that I had no idea existed.  There was some talk of Lennar buying the photographs but that never worked out because I was developing and printing the pictures myself and the price seemed too high to them and too low to me. I was just happy to have my own private ghost town to wander around in when I pleased. I spent as much time there as I could and really felt that I was preserving a bit of overlooked San Francisco history.

Interior of a Natoma St. house, 2004. Photo by Lynne Buckner.

Rail lines to Hunter's Point Shipyard, 2003. Photo by Lynne Buckner.

I was devastated when, after a few months, the neighborhood was demolished. It was very disturbing that efforts to salvage building materials and antique fixtures appeared to be minimal. I was grateful to have salvaged some light fixtures, road signs, knobs, 2 sinks and a medicine cabinet some of which I have in my remodeled bathroom.  The demolition of this local ghost town seemed an apt metaphor for what was happening to the analog photography I was doing and, more broadly my life as a woman over 50.

As the years have passed, my pass to enter the Shipyard was stolen out of my car and I now go only twice a year when the Shipyard is open for Open Studios.  I walk up to the housing site late in the day and photograph the progress on the new housing project. On a recent photo trip, I noted that building has started on what looks like townhouses or an apartment buildings. I’m hoping that someday the new inhabitants will be interested in what their neighborhood once looked like and enjoy imagining their link to the history of the area.”

——

All of Lynne’s photos were developed in her own darkroom, and we are happy that they have traveled from the darkroom onto Historypin. This is a nice snapshot into how one person experiences the life on the rapidly changing Bay waterfront, and a great addition to our Year of the Bay archive.

Explore more of Lynne’s photo pins on her Channel. If you’d like to contribute a guest piece to our blog about your experience around the San Francisco Bay, contact Kerri at kerri.young@wearewhatwedo.org.

Bay Area Resident José Vadi Shares His Father’s Memories of a East Harlem Home Now Lost.

Firefighters from FDNY help to contain the building collapse at Park Avenue in East Harlem, March 12, 2014. Photo from FDNY.

Around 9:30 am on March 12, 2014, two buildings once standing by 116th Street and Park Avenue in New York City’s East Harlem neighborhood were gone, leveled by an explosion from an apparent gas leak. Residents of East Harlem, also called Spanish Harlem and El Barrio, are still mourning the blast that killed 8 and injured over 50, and several community efforts continue to help rebuild the local neighborhood and help those affected.

In the wake of this tragedy comes this insightful guest blog from José Vadi, a writer and performer based in Oakland, CA and founder of the youth storytelling Off/Page Project. Before the collapse, José took the opportunity to capture his father on film revisiting his old East Harlem apartment—one of the buildings lost to the gas explosion. José kindly shared this family memory with us and pinned the video to his Channel, giving his story an even greater sense of place and the change the neighborhood has undergone. Here is what José had to say about sharing his father’s memories on Historypin:

I think it’s important to visualize the before and after of our city’s architectural landscape, especially after such tragic events as those that happened this month in East Harlem. It also helps recognize Uptown’s position in the context of Manhattan and New York at large, and how that sense of feeling removed and alone permeates my father’s memory of a building so filled with life, its underbelly, and the people who comprise its day to day.

The video on (a still yet-to-be-updated) Street View for some perspective of what the street and building looked like right before the collapse (click to view on Historypin).

Below is José’s story behind his bid to revisit the past with his father, an insightful piece called What Happens After a Collapse (also posted on Colorlines)?:

On March 12, 2014, my father forwarded a New York Times article with the headline “At Least 2 Killed in East Harlem Building Collapse.” A brief note from my Dad followed:

Dear Friends, This is the building where I grew up until I was 22 years old (1646 Park Avenue, apartment 7). If those walls could speak! They would tell a tale of immense suffering with small periods of joy.

Growing up, my sister and I heard stories about East Harlem every day from our dad. Tales of unscrupulous landlords. Our abusive grandfather. Stories of newly arrived Puerto Rican squatters filling his apartment to the brim, toiling in the family-owned bodega and the years it stole from my grandmother. My father would describe coughing up soot in the morning, filling shoe soles with cardboard, fighting Italian gangs on the way to school, and singing du-wop in his school hallways. For these reasons, I always associated New York as a place to overcome and leave, instead of a place to live and settle.

I read the article on my phone riding on BART between Oakland and San Francisco and was shocked to hear about the explosion and subsequent collapse of 1644 and 1646 Park Avenue, two neighboring tenements off 116th Street that shared an eastern view with the elevated Metro North line. To date, eight people have died despite rescue efforts to find trapped and missing residents. But in the context of what I know about my father’s life, this was the last of many remaining threads connecting him to the neighborhood he calls home, slowly eroding with every passing year.

I called my dad that night from the kitchen table in my studio apartment. As my elbows rested on the faux wood grain, I remembered my father earned his undergraduate diploma from CCNY – the “poor man’s Harvard” —using an ironing board for a desk until the age of 22. I asked him how he felt about hearing the news. He breathed a heavy sigh. “First, the neighborhood went away – La Marketa’s no longer there, 125th Street’s a mall, the people are all gone. Now, my building’s collapsed. I really don’t have a home anymore. I have no connection to my city anymore, my neighborhood. I’m totally uprooted.”

A photo of José's father with his ironing board, which he used as a desk until the age of 22. This photo was taken at José's grandmother's old house in Aguada, Puerto Rico a few years ago by family friend Daniel Perez.

In February 2010, my father, who lives in Los Angeles, went to New York for the first time since the early ’80s to participate in a lifetime achievement ceremony for East Harlem community activist Rev. Norman Eddy. Rev. Eddy hired my father at the age of 18 to be the director of housing relocation for the Metro North Citizens’ Committee. The program worked heavily along 100th Street, temporarily relocating tenants so that their homes could be refurbished while maintaining their original exteriors. This was Eddy’s attempt to prevent the community plight and disruption currently associated with gentrification and rising rents. His plan lead to cooperative ownership of buildings among tenants, to them having a stake of ownership within their East Harlem community.

Before the collapse, I wanted to document the stories I heard growing up as a kid, no matter how painful for my dad or myself. The goal was to visit 1646 Park Avenue, Apartment 7. I borrowed a FlipCam from my friend, and asked another to film my Dad and me together in his old neighborhood, for the first time. It snowed that day. Still, my father’s pace quickened as he walked across his former neighborhood pointing out where along La Marketa previously existed; his technique for selling shopping bags to patrons for five cents; the high school formerly named after Benjamin Franklin where my father trained for the Millrose Games; where he ran laps inside the hallways during the winter. He showed me the top of the subway stairs where he and his brother would fist fight with the other shoe shine boys, desperate to catch a customer. My pops noted the racial divides by block between Puerto Ricans and Italians along 3rd Avenue and the sewer caps on 117th Street that served as a stickball diamond for their ragtag neighborhood gang. I knew if I ever had the opportunity to walk alongside my dad down the streets where he grew up, I’d go along. I wanted to feel as close as possible to the trajectory that somehow lead to my own existence, starting at its root: 116 and Park.

The fragility of human life was apparent for quite tragic reasons after the collapse, yet I was grateful to have taken the opportunity to have filmed my father in a place he once called home. I wonder now if any of those whose lives were taken last week were living in the building while we were filming; if their stories could have been told to preserve, to share what went untold in homes whose exteriors never truly represent what’s held inside.

When a building falls, do those stories ever die?

I wonder whether Eddy’s plans of cooperative, resident-owned housing would fly in today’s New York economy. I wonder how you preserve a bruise while healing from the original blow? And what of those few moments of joy my father described, how do they shine through a building that to my father’s recollection is a recurring travel through a thorn-lined Babel? And of whatever walls are built in the wake of these building’s collapse, I wonder if future generations will know their true history and who laid the first foundation of East Harlem.

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.

Project Officers Max and Kerri go to the 2014 National Council on Public History

Check-in table at the Monterey Conference Center in Monterey, CA.

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.

Touristy shops near the activities at the Monterey Conference Center.

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.

Cover of this year's NCPH program.

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).

Anthea Hartig of the California Historical Society introducing findings from working with Historypin's Year of the Bay project.

Kerri at the Curating the Bay pinning station in the California Historical Society this past summer.

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.

Rebecca Federman talking about the New York Public Library's "What's on the Menu?" crowdsourcing project.

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

Browse the full program of this year’s NCPH conference, and don’t forget that you can still contribute your memories and solve some history mysteries in our Year of the Bay project.