HistoryPin – creating digital history

Google Maps allows you to develop a feel for an area and its surroundings when you use their street view options but what if you are interested in the development of an area over time?

We Are What We Do, a social action movement based in the UK (London), created Historypin in partnership with Google may just offer this option.

One of the aims of We Are What We Do was to get people from different generations to spend more time together….old photos are a great way of gathering people together and getting them chatting. So, we decided to create a website where people everywhere could share their old photos and the stories behind them. We wanted people to dig out, scan, upload and pin their photos and stories to a map of the world for everyone to see. We also thought it would be neat if you could compare these old photos with how the world looks today, making the site a bit like a digital time machine.

It has the potential to become the largest user-generated archive of the world’s historical images and stories. Web users are asked to contribute to the site by uploading their archive photographs and geo-tagging them so they will be linked to a specific location. You are encouraged to add the stories behind the photo as well and thus building up a visual history book. So Historypin will enable you to pin your history to the world and see what others have posted about events and stories throughout the passage of time by using the time slider.

We some geography units for our students that are based around how areas have changed over time. They have always loved the comparisons between the historical photos I found for local areas and current photos I went out and took of the same places. This would be a great opportunity for them to do their own research and spend time with their parents and grandparents, talking about old photos in their family and making sure the stories they hear are kept for posterity. They could do the technical work and the older generations relate the stories/history.

I also see the information of use in history classes and our language classes where they also look into the culture of the country.

Getting started

To begin you will need to:

  • collect your own photos and it is recommended that they be outdoor shots.
  • know the location for each photo (the street rather than town or suburb)
  • scan your photos onto a computer

You can register by going to the homepage and clicking on the join button. You will need a Gmail address (you can get one from here) and once you have joined you use will use Google’s Picassa site for sharing photos.

There is a very easy to use (and thorough) how-to on the site here


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