Pin Some History: New Collaborative Picture Archive Opens a Virtual Window on the Past

It’s a great time for those who investigate earlier eras as we are in the middle of a major transformative revolution.  Oh sure photocopiers made it easy to duplicate library materials and the connectivity of the Internet tied things together.  But in this digital age open source placement of content on social media sites is the latest cutting-edge enhancement enabling exploration of the past to move beyond the walls of the library while also leveraging the powerful knowledge of the crowd.

Hstorypin, one of these exciting, new collaborative products, is a virtual repository where users pin old photos on Google Maps.  This allows “millions of people to come together, from across different generations, cultures and places, to share small glimpses of the past and to build up the huge story of human history,” according to the publisher.   “Everyone has a history to share:  whether it is sitting in yellowed albums in the attic, collected in piles of crackly tapes, conserved in the 1000s of archives all over the world or passed down in memories and old stories.  Each of these pieces of history finds a home on Historypin, where everyone has a chance to see it, add to it, learn from it, debate it, and use it to build up a more complete understanding of the world.”  We Are What We Do, the publisher, is a not-for-profit company, working in partnership with Google.

Although the development of the collection is in its early stage, viewers will find plenty of fascinating images online.  On the Delmarva Peninsula the pinning is just getting underway, but there are pictures from the Maryland State Archives, the Hagley Museum, and individuals, going back to the mid-19th century.  Wilmington, Perryville, Harrington, Salisbury, and other places on the Eastern Shore are represented through the sharing of these early adopters.

It will be interesting to watch developments in this region as the major institutions sort out how they’re going to use this collaborative, open source platform to change the way people experience the past, making resources accessible to a far broader audience.  In addition there will probably be a great deal of sharing as old pictures come out of the attic.  And the value of crowdsourcing adds to the unparalleled interactive experience, creating a broader knowledge database as visitors to the site create additional knowledge about the objects.

When Google Street View is available, it overlays the historical pictures on the contemporary location, creating an interesting perspective.  Here’s the link to Historypin.

Downtown Salisbury about 1856. Source: Maryland State Archives via HistoryPin

An old tavern in Wilmington: Source: Hagley Museum via Historypin

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