Historypin: Past Meets Present in Street View
What urban storytelling has to do with the end of WWII and Google Maps mashups.
By Maria Popova
Photographic Time Machine is one of our all-time most popular articles, but it spotlights projects that, while fascinating, are one-off art experiments. How fantastic would it be if there were a broader, more expansive platform for intersecting past and present through historical photography, a digital time machine of sorts? Well, now there is. Enter Historypin — a mashup of modern mapping and archival photos that offers a new way to explore and share history.
Developed by We Are What We Do, the social movement behind Anya Hindmarch’s now-iconic I’m Not a Plastic Bag bag, in partnership with Google, the project pulls photos from various national archives and private-sector collections, and “pins” them over Google Maps Street View to create a fascinating fold in the space/time continuum.
Archival photos can both be dated and geotagged, painting a precise portrait of how specific locations have changed. Users can even submit their own and write stories about them, adding a wonderful urban storytelling component akin to Hitotoki.
From 19th-century views of Baltimore and Potomac Railway Station to London’s iconic High Street on Victory in Europe Day in 1945, Historypin features nearly 2,000 photos and stories pinned just a couple of days after the official launch and has the potential to become the largest user-generated archive of historical images and stories, documenting not only how the physicality of our world is changing but also how our experience of it is responding to those changes — a priceless timecapsule of cultural change.
Published June 4, 2010