Historypin is a relatively new online resource that provides users with a platform to pin their personal photographs, audio clips, and videos to Google Maps. Launched to the public in July of this year, Historypin was developed by the non-profit We Are What We Do in partnership with Google.
Historypin aims to provide an innovative platform that allows people all over the world to share their memories. When users “pin” a photograph on Historypin, the photo is pinned to a specific geological location on Google Maps. So, where Street View is available, users can view the historic image in the context of what the location looks like now. Take my hometown of Abilene, Texas, for example. This photo shows the old high school that my grandfather attended pinned over what became my middle school, Lincoln Middle School.
Going through old photo albums and Grandma’s attic was never so fun. And, because users can search by location, date, and subject, results can be both very specific and very rich, connecting scholars and researchers directly to the owners of the content. Since its launch Historypin has become very popular. And Historypin’s two smartphone applications, available for both the iPhone and the Android, make pinning history even easier. Now users can snap a picture of a historical photo and pin it to Historypin on the go.
But however innovative Historypin is as a social platform for the public, its partnerships with libraries, archives, and museums make Historypin an exciting platform for scholars. Since the launch of its Beta site in 2010, Historypin has worked hard to develop partnerships with cultural institutions. Most museums, libraries, and archives have online collections available to the public, but such collections are sometimes difficult for the public to locate or access. Historypin provides a more user-friendly interface and a popular platform for the collections of cultural institutions. Some of the many institutions that have partnered with Historypin include the Brooklyn Museum, Boston Public Library, the Museum of the City of New York, and the Los Angeles Public Library. To see a more detailed list, click here. The Museum of the City of New York and the New York Public Library are two partnered institutions that have pinned interesting media related to Greenwich Village. But such partnerships do not only benefit Historypin and its users, but also the partnering institutions. Historypin gives their partners many benefits, including: new audiences for their collections, assistance with locating metadata information about collections, as well as web and mobile tools that allow institutions to embed their Historypin collections directly in their websites.
Historypin offers their users and partnered institutions several features for presenting and interpreting their content. One such feature, “Collections,” lets users group their media based on a theme–perhaps a place, movement, event, or topic. For example, the New York Public Library’s “Berenice Abbott” collection is composed of a selection of the photographer’s photographs of New York City from the 1930s. Users can even view a slideshow of the collection. Another unique feature offered by Historypin is the “Tour” feature. Users and institutional partners can produce original step-by-step tours with their collections, interpreting a story with media as the user clicks through time and space. This tour tells the early story of New York immigration.
This particular tour contains a series of themed historical photographs and videos that interpret immigration to the City, from Ellis Island to the forming of immigrant communities. The historical content is pinned in the context of present-day New York, while the right pane gives users interpretive text and the geographical context of the pin in relation to the city. Several museums and cultural institutions, especially in the United Kingdom, have taken advantage of this Historypin feature to showcase the histories of their communities and institutions.
Historypin and Greenwich Village:
Nick Stanhope, CEO of Historypin, said this about the platform, “People will use Historypin, if it grows as we hope, in different ways, to different ends. They will create narratives, impose judgements, introduce political opinions–it will be another platform to get your version of history in the ongoing fight for our memory.” Historypin is a crowdsourced site–it relies on user and institutional collaboration for its content. Photos, audio, and video have already been pinned across Greenwich Village. However, it is and will continue to be the responsibility of Greenwich Village’s cultural institutions–archives, libraries, and museums–as well as interested individuals to pin, collect, and craft tours that will share the Village’s history with users and create dialogue around the presented themes and issues. To learn more about Historypin and the exciting projects surrounding it, visit the Historypin Blog.