About Jon Voss

Jon Voss is the Historypin Strategic Partnerships Director. Together with global collaborators and the Historypin team, he’s helping to build an open ecosystem of historical data across libraries, archives, and museums worldwide. His innovative work at the intersection of technology and cultural memory is also getting him closer to his childhood dream of perfecting time travel.

Historypin and LODLAM

I’m excited to have a chance to facilitate the 3rd International Linked Open Data in Library, Archives & Museums Summit (LODLAM) in Sydney 29-30 June, 2015. As part of it, I want to debut a sneak peek into some linked data work our team is doing together with Europeana.

The idea is to address the challenge of “roundtripping of data,” when projects like Historypin are able to provide community enrichment to institutional collections and institutions can in turn ingest those enrichments and comments.  A lot of this is looking at using Linked Data to improve upon or provide an alternative to OAI-PMH, which is more in tune with methods that can be used by web developers at large.

In our case, we have created an API to allow access to annotations on our site (other APIs in the works), and we’ve utilized Open Annotation and JSONLD to make this available to Europeana to harvest and ingest back into their records.

1. users annotate or enrich the records



2. this data is expressed using OA and JSON-LD


3. Europeana has created a query tool which will not just be for us eventually, in which they request annotations within a certain time window.


This shows the source, and then the transformation which maps it to the Europeana Data Model, and finally a response from the query about whether or not this has been written to Europeana.


Community Archiving, Strategies for Engagement

We held a web seminar in October 2014 as a followup from our work with Natalie Milbrodt and the Queens Public Library around Queens: Neighborhood Stories. The project, funded by the Metropolitan New York Library Council, sought to explore possibilities for engagement through community archiving sessions at branch libraries. In addition to Natalie’s work throughout the project, we had great support from Anne Karle-Zenith and the team at METRO. They encouraged us to explore some of the lessons that could be shared with those taking on similar projects, which we were of course happy to do. The 6 videos running a total time of just over an hour are embedded below in a playlist, which you can also access here.

We’re continuing to build on these lessons and would love to hear from you as well. Please use the comments space below to share some of the things that have worked with you, or to ask questions of the team.

Mapping Emotions in Victorian London

The project’s main map, showing “pins” of novel passages mapped out throughout London. Map overlay courtesy of the National Library of Scotland.

Mapping Emotions of Victorian London is an experiment that visualizes data about thousands of passages from 1400 Victorian novels, using crowdsourcing to ascribe emotional sentiment to them. We’re proud to launch this third and final project as part of a three year Andrew W. Mellon funded research grant with Stanford University’s Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis exploring the use and design of crowdsourcing to benefit academic research.

You can read more about the project from the Stanford scholars on their site, see our behind-the-scenes work over the last three years, read our paper from Museums and the Web 2015 (slides, paper), articles in the New York Times and FastCoDesign, and look out for two papers being presented at DH2015 in July.

Sevendials: The comments section of an example pin in the project, showing a reference card generated automatically with a Wikipedia url.

An example literary passage from the project. Its mapped location appears on the left, alongside pins for other passages about the same location.


You can search project tags to find passages by specific authors, as with this example search for “Dickens.”


A closer look at the metadata for a literary passage in the project (just click on the 'Pin Metadata' arrow to expand). Shown are tags attributed to each pin, with the options for members of the public to add more tags, and the pin’s copyright information. This includes the percentage of Mechanical Turk users who found this particular passage 'happy' versus 'fearful.'

Historypin, the US National Archives, and Fury

Today is the US opening day for the movie Fury, starring Brad Pitt as a tank commander nearing the dangerous final days of fighting in Germany during World War II.  As part of our work with the US National Archives, we’ve had an incredible glimpse into the war both at home and abroad, with newly digitized newsreel clips from April 1945.  Criss Kovac, supervisor of the National Archives Motion Picture Preservation Lab (who happened to get a sneak peak of the film at the Fury premiere in DC this week–jealous!) gives great context to the film in this post along with the just-released newsreels and amazing gif images.  The Fury team has also put together a digital discussion guide you can download which adds further context (and thanks for the Historypin shoutout!)

We’ve started to work on geolocating some of these NARA newsreel clips on Historypin, as you can see below with footage of the first gathering of the United Nations in San Francisco on April 25, 1945. You can almost hear the word’s of President Truman echoing through the Herbst Theater today, “If we do not want to die together in war, we must learn to live together in peace.”

We’ll be releasing more details soon, but we’re teaming up with the Rio Theater and Cafe in Monte Rio, California November 8th, 2014 for a special Veteran’s Day screening of Fury. The special dinner and a movie experiential event, Homefront 1945, will let the historic Quonset hut theater us back in time to experience the sounds, tastes and stories of our country at war and hear from residents, veterans, and historians about what life in California, and on the front, was like in April 1945.


The night will feature swing music from the 1940’s, a modern take on vintage foods, actual newsreels from April 1945, and a diverse roundtable of experts and first hand accounts of life on the homefront and the front lines.  You’ll be able to share your own personal or family stories on Historypin as well, and we’ll have on display and will be raffling off reproductions of maps, war bonds posters, and digitally restored films from the National Archives collection, as well as official Fury posters.

Do you have family photos or memories to share about World War II?  You can add them to Historypin now! Interested in hosting a film and memory sharing event like this yourself? Let us know in the comments or drop a line to Jon Voss, Strategic Partnership Director at Historypin.

Suffolk University Offers Free Online History of Boston Class Utilizing Historypin

Registration is now open for Suffolk University’s first free online course, The History of Boston. The course will engage Bostonians, tourists, history buffs and students worldwide with the Boston events and people that brought the spark of democracy to the world. The course is available beginning Oct. 20, 2014 and is free and open to the general public.

The course explores Boston from the 1600’s to the present day. Learn about the Massachusett Indians who lived there before the Puritans arrived. Discover how these settlers created a system of self government so strong that Boston became the most democratic community on the planet and the birthplace of the American Revolutionary War. Trace the city’s role in the American anti-slavery movement and the Civil War.

The course includes a virtual tour of Boston, featuring many of the city’s best known landmarks and sites like the Freedom Trail, USS Constitution, State House, Harbor Islands, Waterworks Museum, Lowell Mills, Old North Church, Kings Chapel, Boston Common, Faneuil Hall, the Esplanade, African Meeting House and more. It also features interviews with many of Boston’s most fascinating activists, artists, scholars and politicians that provide perspective on Boston’s influence on culture and politics.

“There’s no reason that learning can’t be fun, and we created an interactive, fact-filled course that will attract a wide range of people – from out-of-town students beginning their studies in Boston, to tourists visiting the city, and to business people coming into town for conferences and meetings,” said David Kusek of Digital Cowboys, who produced the online course for Suffolk University.

Registration: https://www.canvas.net/courses/history-of-boston

Detailed course information: http://historyofboston.org/

Memories of Migration Project to launch in 2015

We’re excited to announce that Historypin has teamed up with the Santa Ana Public Library to launch the Memories of Migration project, with support from the Institute for Museum and Library Services through the award of a $495,000 National Leadership Grant.

The three year project will be led by the Santa Ana Public Library and provide innovative programs for teens to focus on community memory and the many diverse stories of human migration over time.  The project builds on their successful Teen Historian program, which combines web and new media training with storytelling.

Teen Historians at Santa Ana Public Library recording interviews of Mexican American veterans.

Memories of Migration compliments and celebrates the vital role that libraries play in the lives of new immigrant families and will serve public libraries with meaningful programs and enrichment activities that meet the following goals:

  • provide new immigrant communities a participatory voice in library collections and events
  • increase digital literacy and provide learning in Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM) to new immigrant teens and young adults through digital training in new media and digitization technologies
  • strengthen libraries as anchors of intergenerational and intercultural dialogue on both a local and national level.

Techniques developed by the Santa Ana Public Library will be tested and enhanced in model programs operated by four partner libraries and agencies that serve new immigrant communities across the country.  Queens Library (Queens, NY), West Hartford Public Library, (West Hartford, CT), the State of New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs and New Mexico Highlands University (Las Vegas, NM) have also developed innovative youth engagement and public memory projects and will join our team to develop and expand the program, addressing the needs of their diverse communities in a mixture of urban, suburban and rural settings.

An additional partner in the progam, Project GADO, will provide teens training in the use of scanning robots that will facilitate the digitization of the histories, while another, Orange County Reforma, will organize a local conference on Latino history to kick off the information collection process.

The Memories of Migration public launch is scheduled for the summer of 2015.  For further information about the project, please contact Jon Voss, Strategic Partnership Director at Historypin, or Cheryl Eberly, Principal Librarian, Young Adult Services at Santa Ana Public Library.

Tagging Embeds: The Manhattan Project

One of the things I’m realizing we need to do more of is use the blog to highlight the many different ways people are using Historypin to highlight their work, research and community engagement. I don’t think a lot of people know that you can embed your Historypin content into other sites, highlighting your content with the full functionality of your Historypin Profile, and embedded with a simple code snippet (which you can see in your settings on the top right, “link with my sites,” when you’re logged into your Historypin account, see image inline).  So if you already have a website with lots of mappable content about the history of a local community for instance, you can share it on Historypin and enhance your own website to boot!

While it was released over a year ago, I think this is a great example of an embed employed by a website examining some of the stories surrounding the Manhattan Project:

 How much does it cost for this incredible service, you ask?  Nothing.  It’s free, and part of what we provide as part of our mission to help build community around local history.  Let us know if you have questions about it in the comments below, or join our Google Group to discuss it with other community leaders.

Great Historypin Resource for Teachers

Thanks to Wade Gegan and the team at Fractus Learning, Historypin has been featured as part of their Bitesize PD (professional development) series.  The short article does a great job condensing the essential elements of Historypin and how it might be used by teachers in a wide variety of settings.

After a brief overview of the site, they go into some practical applications and pull in some our various resources for teachers and classrooms, as well as examples of how Historypin has been used in various settings.  Click through to the full article below.

First World War Timeline Data

Together We Win WWI poster courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration. http://research.archives.gov/description/512482

When we first started doing research into First World War centenary events, we looked for an easy to use timeline of events so we could keep an eye on major anniversaries and see where we were on the timeline, 100 years later.  Surprisingly, I couldn’t find any timelines in openly licensed, structured data form.  So I took the liberty of cleaning up the data from the Wikipedia timeline of WWI and putting together a first stab at a csv file for public use.


Please feel free to use this data however you like.  Design up a sweet WWI anniversary calendar, create a tweetbot, a blog highlighting the events of the War 100 years later, your own javascript timeline with Timeline JS, or something nobody but you has ever thought of.  Also, feel free to make improvements on the data itself, RDFize it, convert it to XML, map it to the Europeana Data Model, etc.  This was just a quick first draft for our own uses. I’ve put it up on github if you’d like share your data modifications.

We’d love to hear what you do with the data, just let us know in the comments!

Share your Places that Matter with National Trust of Australia

Woodbridge, shared by National Trust of Australia (WA)

The following post is from our partners at the National Trust of Australia, who have launched This Place Matters Australia.

About the Project: This Place Matters Australia…

This place where you lived, had your baby, saw a gig, met for lunch or fell in love.

This Place Matters.

If it matters to you, it matters to us.  Share your stories, photos, videos and audio clips and help the National Trust celebrate the places that matter.

So pin the places that matter – your houses, gardens, shops, orchards, markets, landscapes, stations and schools and have a look at what matters to us all.

All members of the community are invited to pin their stories, photos, videos and audio clips of places that matter to them.  As long as the place currently exists, we want any information on why it matters.  Anything matters to us if it does to you – it can be because you grew up there, were kissed for the first time there, or just believe the place is important historically or culturally.

How to pin your Places That Matter…

So, pin your place through the This Place Matters Australia project and in the photo/video/audio description tell us:

‘This Place Matters because…’

View our ‘how-to’ open an account and pin to projects guides below or download here.

About History Mysteries…

These Places Matter but we need some help finding out why.  Is it because of who lived here or what happened here? See if you can answer our questions and share these fascinating stories with everyone. Just view the History Mysteries on the This Place Matters Australia project.