Monday, March 25, 2013

History Pin and What Was There

I’ve been hearing a lot about two sites that are linking geography, history and technology by attaching historical photographs of buildings, landscape, and landmarks to present day maps: Historypin and WhatWasThere. Both are fun to explore, and for the tech savvy, both provide opportunities to contribute images. I can imagine working to post photos on either site would make a great classroom project.

WhatWasThere is fun for everyone—and for the tech savvy, contributing to this crowd-sourced site would make a great classroom project. Per their website, What Was There “is an excellent resource for geography, history, and fun. It connects historical photos to Google Maps, letting you see what places looked like in the past. You can tour locations, browse photos and even upload your own historical photos…. The WhatWasThere project was inspired by the realization that we could leverage technology and the connections it facilitates to provide a new human experience of time and space – a virtual time machine of sorts that allows users to navigate familiar streets as they appeared in the past. … The premise is simple: provide a platform where anyone can easily upload a photograph with two straightforward tags to provide context: Location and Year. If enough people upload enough photographs in enough places, together we will weave together a photographic history of the world (or at least any place covered by Google Maps). So wherever you are in the world, take a moment to upload a photograph and contribute to history!”

Last time I checked, there were 53 images uploaded for Helena. One cool feature is that What Was There lets you see images in Google Maps street view. It doesn’t place them exactly at same angle on Google street view—and it is “crowd-sourcing” so it may not be 100% accurate, but it is still crazy cool.

Historypin is another “collaborative website where google maps and google street view is combined with user contributed photographs in order to provide the viewer with a doorway to the past.” According to its website, “Historypin is a way for 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.”

One cool feature of Historypin is their featured projects, which include everything from “Amazing Grandparents” to “Olympic Memories.” Historypin is backed by Google and they have worked hard to partner with museums and schools. The National Archives, for example, has a HistoryPpin project and HistoryPin has created a page for teachers that suggests uses in the classroom, topics to explore, and provides case studies on how schools are using the program.

From the little exploration I’ve done of each, both sites seem great—but I haven’t spent much time on either. I did find an interesting review that compares the two.  Has anyone incorporated either of these sites into your classroom? If so, weigh in with a review.


  1. I have only worked with What Was There, and while there tend to be mistakes, the folks there are very responsive to suggestions; I pointed them to 8 or 10 corrections in Butte (some of which came from mis-identified locations in the original historic photo documentation). They fixed them really fast.

  2. Thanks for sharing your experience, Richard!