Clare Balding shares family photos

Clare Balding, known for her love of sport, horses and THAT interview with Bert, recently named as one of the 100 most powerful women in the UK and universally accepted as Queen of the Olympic coverage, has become the latest celebrity to start pinning on Historypin.

She has recently added some of her family photos to the ‘Remember How We Used To‘ project.

Take a flick through Clare’s photos and see that her enthusiasm for sport began early, playing football and cricket with her brother. A love of animals was clearly a family trait – she shows how her Dad even gave her Mum a horse for as a wedding present.

But our favourite is this one of Clare on her Shetland pony, Valkyrie – previously ridden by Prince Andrew and Prince Edward…

See Clare’s Channel here and visit ‘Remember how we used to …‘ to add your own photos and memories.

Clare joins other famous Historypinners including HRH the Duke of Cambridge (aka Prince William), Martin Luther King III and Tony Robinson.

Celebrating Chinese New Year

A couple of weeks back it was Chinese New Year and to celebrate Auckland Heritage Libraries have been busy pinning historical photos of Auckland’s Chinatown, including the Chinese market gardens over the centuries.

For more about the history of Chinese communities in Auckland, check out their blog post take a look at their blog post and the Collection on their Channel.

And for a whizz round some other Chinatowns, take a look at this Tour of Chinatowns in North America.

PS. If you were wondering, it’s the year of the snake.

Pinning at the Jewish East End Extravaganza

From pinathons to storytelling sessions, we love hearing about all the different ways that people around the world are using Historypin with their communities. So this week we’re excited to have a guest post from Charlotte Goodhart (@CharGoodhart) who was part of the team from the Jewish Community Centre running a Historypin workshop at the ‘Jewish East End Extravaganza’ last month. If you too have been using Historypin in interesting ways, let us know!


On the 27th January, the Jewish Community Centre for London held the ‘Jewish East End

Extravaganza’, at Rich Mix in Bethnal Green.  The event consisted of a variety of different activities including workshops about the traditional trades of the East End, a food stand hosted by Kosher Roast and walking tours of the area led by Rachel Kolsky.

Myself and Alex Eisenberg work with the Jewish Community Centre for London and as part of the day we used Historypin to create a digital map of the Jewish East End.  Prior the event, we created our own Historypin Channel and put out a call for photographs and memories of area from people who had lived there or had other family ties to the area.

We hit gold when we were able to access the archives at The Jewish Museum, which contains thousands of fantastic images.  Luckily for us, the museum has been very strict about keeping records of donated images, so we were able to access a wealth of information about what we were looking at.

We also met with some people, who are still living in east London and made a trip to Stepney Jewish Day Centre, where staff pulled out a treasure trove, in the form of a ‘memories box’ that contained hundreds of photos and albums from the last century. These included photos of the Queen Mother in Stepney when she visited the Synagogue in 1956! We also spoke with visitors to the centre about their experiences of the East End, many of whom are in their 80s and 90s and had many stories to share.

On the day itself, we weren’t sure what to expect! We set up a ‘mapping hub’ (pictured below) on the stage at Rich Mix, with a couple of computers, a scanner and a projector showing some photos we had already collected.

Despite some glitches  (a very late tech man and a very temperamental scanner) the day was a great success and both Alex and myself got to meet some fascinating characters, including a man whose father was a famous East End ballroom dancer that is rumoured to have impressed Fred Astaire! Here he is with his dance partner looking very dapper:

The marketing team at the JCC had made public requests for more images and we were pleasantly surprised by the amount of response we received – I am still in the process of uploading the images shared with us!

Everyone was keen to see what we were doing and find out about any plans for the future. There was a lot of positive response from visitors who were enthusiastic about the importance of preserving the history of the Jewish East End, especially as there is now only a very small and elderly community there, the majority of the community having moved away in the decades following the Second World War.

Historypin is the perfect space for the preservation of this history, due to its simplicity in use and its mass availability.  We hope to extend the project, first across London and perhaps later in other parts of the UK.  Many people who attended were disappointed that the specification was just for photos of the East, as their parents and grandparents had lived around Soho and Bloomsbury before the Second World War.  Equally, whilst London was the starting point for so many Jewish migrants, it wasn’t the only place; many went to Liverpool, Glasgow Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle and even Bristol – this really shows the potential for a long term, more inclusive project.

The project is ongoing and if you would like to be involved or you have some images you would like added, please do email us at

Charlotte Goodhart

Historypin Visits in Australia & New Zealand

I know it’s a little last minute, but if you’re in Brisbane, Sydney, Perth or Auckland, we’d love to see you!

Brisbane, ALIA Information Online conference.  Wednesday 13 Feb, Jon Voss joins Roy Tennant and Ingrid Mason in keynote.  Friday 15 Feb, State Library of Queensland hosts Historypin walk in Brisbane CBD.

Sydney. Tuesday 19 Feb, Powerhouse Museum hosts Historypin user group and talk with Jon Voss. 10am-noon.  More details and free registration here.

Auckland. 21 Feb. Jon Voss giving a talk and meetup, details tbd.

Perth, early March. Rebekkah Abraham available for workshops and meetings, tbd.

Please contact Jon or Rebekkah directly if you’re interested in meeting up or hosting something at your institution.


Tony Robinson shares family photos

My dad Leslie is the one on the left. He was a fitter for Hurricanes and Spitfires in WWII. He and his team are holding gasmasks

Tony Robinson, (who many continue to call BaldricBlackadder’s sidekick through the centuries) has opened his family photo album as part of our project Remember How We Used To,  exploring how energy has transformed our lives.

Tony has pinned some lovely photos of his Mum in the 1930s and his Dad who repaired Spitfires and Hurricanes during World War Two. You can check out his Channel here.

But our favourite one has to be this of him popping out of a TV at the Victoria Theatre in Stoke-on-Trent!

Tony Robinson - taken at the Victoria Theatre Stoke on Trent 1967

You definitely couldn’t do that with a modern flat screen 3D HD TV! But you probably could with some of the first models of TVs, radios and other household devices which often resembled small houses.

To see how our favourite pieces of tech have evolved over the decades, take a look at our new interactive Inventions Timeline. From washing machines to the World Wide Web, explore when the devices were invented and became the common household items that we can’t live without.

Historypin on touch screens!

Embed of the Butler Project Channel

Embed of the Butler Project Channel, explorable through a touch screen in the exhibition. (By permission of the Master and Fellows of St John's College, Cambridge)

A while back I wrote about the fantastic Samuel Butler Project and a couple of weeks ago I got a chance to see it in action when I went down to their Butler Day – Adventures in Italy Exhibition. A series of enlightening talks and beautiful photos brought this fascinating Victorian polymath to life.

But one of the most exciting parts had to be seeing Historypin on touch screens! The folks at St John’s College Library had embedded their Historypin Channel on their own website which was displayed on some whizzy touch screens around the room.

So as well as hearing about Butler’s travels across Europe and seeing some beautiful prints of the images he took, visitors were able to link photo and places by browsing through their Historypin Channel.

We’ve seen organisations doing all sorts of cool things with their Channel, from app walking trails to bus shelters, but we’re pretty sure that Samuel Butler Project wins the prize for being the first to put their Channel on touch screens. (If we’re wrong, let us know!)

We hope its the first of many more innovative and interactive exhibitions integrating Historypin in imaginative ways. If you’ve done fun things with your Historypin Channel and your community or exhibits, let us know!

A selection of Butler's photos (By permission of the Master and Fellows of St John's College, Cambridge)

The Tanana River, Montevideo and Smilling in Photographs

Pin of The Week

Meeting the native Peoples on the Tanana River

Meeting the native Peoples on the Tanana River, 1916

Pin of the week was pinned by the Rutherford B.Hayes Presidential Center. It was taken by Colonel Webb C. Hayes, son of the aforementioned 19th President of the United States. The Colonel was on a trip exploring Alaska and the Yukon with his two 18 year-old nephews Dalton Hayes and William Hayes. This photograph appeals to me because it is a beautiful portrait of a traditional family within a cultural group that probably had very rarely been photographed at this point. The caption accompanying the photograph tells that there were…”lines of drying salmon hanging up and some caribou and bear skins.”

Pinner of the Week

Plaza Independencia, 1936

Plaza Independencia, 1936

Pinner of the Week is Centro de Fotografía de Montevideo (the Montevideo photography centre). This organisation has a brilliant channel conserving and documenting the history of Uruguay’s capital. Their own archive has approximately 120,000 photographs from the period 1840-1990 and a growing collection of contemporary photos.  There is a wealth of historical information paired with the photos they have pinned; and even if your Spanish isn’t too hot (like mine) it’s quite fun too filter the blurbs through Google Translate and see what you can discern.

Children of Carnival, 1918

The children of Carnival, 1918

You can read about all aspects of the city’s history: the famous Carnival that takes over South America every February, the history of the buildings and the port, the creation of the city’s tourist industry and everything in between.

Rosaleda del Prado, 1920

Rosaleda del Prado, 1920

This photo shows a garden path within Rosaleda del Prado, a huge rose garden within the public park of Prado that was designed by French landscape architect Charles Racine and opened in November 1912. It was made up of 12,000 rosebushes many varieties of which Racine had had shipped over from his homeland.

Story of the Week

Smiling in photographs

Smiling in photographs

This week story regards the transition, over the timeline of photography, from seemingly non-expressive poses to today’s photo-culture of never forgetting to have your biggest smiles ready whenever a camera is near.
I decided to investigate when the change occurred and to what it was attributed. The first photograph with a person as the subject matter was supposedly in 1838. The early photographic process was a much lengthier affair than today with exposure times up to a minute long. For this reason people needed to be in a pose that was sustainable for this length of time. All kinds of apparatus was used to help, including head braces and ropes going through the clothes and chairs of young children, in an effort to lock them into position. A minute-long smile would appear unnatural, it was much easier to maintain a more relaxed face. The opportunity for a family or individual to have their photograph taken was also a rare, expensive event that would see the family dress-up in their Sunday finest. To smile and risk ruining the photo could upset the whole family and maybe stemming from this reason smiling for photos was considered insincere and undignified.

Mr and Mrs George W. Starr and family, 1902

Mr and Mrs George W. Starr and family, 1902

As time passed the photographic process improved and exposure times reduced. A crisp photo was not so reliant on sustained perfect-stillness from the subject.  People also grew more used to having their photo taken as the practice became cheaper and more commonplace. By the 1920s the informalising of photography and the informalising of many other social aspects meant that people had started choosing to smile when their image was captured. The practice has widened and today you may be accused of rudeness if you fail to offer a smile for a photo.
That is a general assessment of how smiling in photos became commonplace but I thought I would just mention a few other reasons offered when I was reading around the subject which include improvements in oral hygiene and dentistry and photographers perfecting their delivery of jokes.
I have always been more intrigued by older photos than newer ones and wondered why. Aside from the mystery that time helps nuture, I think a big part of the reason is what lies behind the smile. Having smile as the default writes a deceitful account of what is going on. The exposure time of a photo today can be infinitesimal compared to old photos.  You may capture a smile but it is such a quick snapshot of a smile that there is no time to determine its sincerity. The attempted neutral expressions of the past were exposed for seconds rather than milliseconds and allowed enough time for someones real emotions to shine through. So, although it may sound counter-intuitive, I believe if you want to show the world how happy you are; turn your face as blank as possible, sit very still and turn that exposure right up.

Thanks for the photo, which was pinned by EastMarple1.