Using photos to understand history.

We had some geography units for our students based around how areas have changed over time. Many of our students enjoyed comparing historical photos I found for the local areas they knew and current photos that I took of the same places.

There are a few opportunities to make this a real life project and add to a global history project.

The tools below could be  useful for either history of geography if they were focusing on local studies.  I also see potential for the information to be used in our language classes where they also look into the culture of the country.

 1. History Pin 


Back in 2010 I wrote about a tool called History Pin. It was created  by “We Are What We Do”, a social action movement based in the UK (London) which is now known as Shift. History Pin was created in partnership with Google and is a tool looking at history with a timeline of photographs.

Still supported, it allows users to upload photographs, date them and then slide the timeline through history to see the changes over time. Whether you are interested in buildings, transport or “life” from a particular time, History Pin offers you a glimpse into the past.

It offered our students a great opportunity to do their own research and spend time with older members of their family, talking about the old photos in their family and making sure the stories they hear are kept for posterity. Some used it as a basis for family histories as they did the technical work and the older generations telling their stories/history.

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.

2.  What Was there?


What Was There is a free online tool that makes use of Google Maps and the ability for people to upload old pictures of any location, add the date, and then pinpoint the location on a map and match it to the same view today. It provides a brief history of buildings that have long gone or still exist today. You can even look at a building or street via ‘street view’ and then it will overlay the old photograph on top, allowing you to fade the photo to reveal what it looks like today.

It is simple to adjust the view to match the view in the old photograph as it uses eye-level street view tools. When uploaded you can fade from one view to another so you can see the changes appear before your eyes.

This would be useful for pupils to see how streets around their home or school may have changed over time. They could contribute photographs or link from those elsewhere. It is being updated constantly with new photos.  There is also an iPhone app available as well.



State Library of Victoria: Melbourne app

Melbourne has a rich and vibrant history. Although not old by European standards there are many great stories about the city. In the 1800’s it was extremely wealthy and many amazing buildings were built to show off that wealth although there were slums and a seamier side as well. There is now a new way to explore the Melbourne of the 1800’s.Melbourne_app

The State Library of Victoria has developed a new app that offers a way of understanding more about the history of Melbourne as you are taking a stroll around the city. You can explore the fascinating history of the area and look behind some of the beautiful Victorian architecture. By using your location to show nearby buildings, the user can view more then 300 photographs of street views and aerial photographs as well as read the stories about each location. Some of the photos are as early as 1840. 

There is so much to like: it’s free, it offers heaps of interesting detail. The only drawback is that it doesn’t have an android version. I can see it being of great value to our year 9 students when they are doing their city discovery week but only if they have an iphone or ipad.

Multicolr – finding shades from flickr

I love finding images interesting images and tools that help me find just what I am looking for. This is a very nifty little  web-based tools that everybody should know about.  Multicolr Search Lab (Idee) finds photos on Flickr whose dominant colours match those which you can select from a palette at the side of the page.  You can select up to 10 to be part of a set of colours.
I like the idea of being able to easily find a colour scheme
The screen shot shows the result when I selected 6 colors – shades of purple, blue and a red. The resulting Flickr pictures displaying a combination of these colors and some were quite amazing. With the photos coming from Flickr and therefore often licensed to use under creative commons they can go ion to be used on blogs or other websites. This is a boon for students especially when they can use Imagecodr to help them with attribution.

Image sharing with

In a world where many applications aim to everything for us I have found one today that does not. does just one thing, and it does it quite well, it shares images. As long as you’re using Firefox 3.6, Google Chrome or Internet Explorer 9 you can simply drag and drop images into

This tool is useful for anyone looking for a way to share pictures online without the hassle of logging in. You do not need to have an account to create an album and you have anonymous uploading as your IP is not logged. This allows you to create galleries without anyone knowing who created them.

You are given a set of special links:

An editor’s link that allows you to  

  • Name a gallery by clicking on top right “Untitled” button.     
  • Add more photographs into gallery by dragging them onto gallery page. However it seems that you cannot rename the images once on the page so think about the names and rename the files on your hard disk first    
  • Delete photos from gallery by clicking X icons.     
  • Delete entire gallery by clicking Trash icon.

 A viewer link: to share the whole album/gallery to your friends,

A direct link for each image that allows you to share a single image. However when trying to share a link to a specific image in a large gallery it took a long time because loads every image sequentially so it took quite some time to get to the required image.

The tool might be useful for class or group sharing of photos. As you don’t need an account to log in,  students don’t have to give any details and so can safely remain anonymous.

The developers have stated they want to be a sharing platform for all media types (photo, video, audio, and documents) but it is still very early days.

At the moment it is completely free but when dealing with such large quantities of data this may change.

Some galleries:

Australian birds

From Network Worldz


Photos and Illustrations about learning and teaching with technologies (L3T at FlickR)

I like the idea for this book project “Teaching and Learning with Technologies” They are looking for pictures and illustrations for each chapter.  A Flickr-group was started a while ago where people were asked to upload appropriate pictures under a creative-commons licenses.

The L3T project collect creative commons licensed photos and illustrations about learning and teaching with technologies. The pics are collected to illustrate an innovative text book project, but are free to use for everybody. Please spread the world and contribute to the L3T group at Flickr.

I like th idea because I know students who love to take photos and who have an interesting “eye”.  How much more fun for them to to take photos that might be used for this project. It also provides an opportunity to be part of a group that is contributing photos that they might also want to use. It is easy to become a member and share photos with this community on Technology Enhanced Learning.