About Rebekkah

Rebekkah Abraham is the Historypin Operations Director.

Making the Tough Decision to Pull our Mobile Apps

Historypin supports people who are passionate about using cultural heritage to bring communities together. From Australia to Zimbabwe, we’re proud to help people connect with heritage and engage with each other in new ways. As a non-profit, our central aim is to build the simplest, most effective digital tools which support community engagement and to use our resources where they have maximum impact, maintaining a small set of effective, specific tools rather than a large range that do too many things.

Since we launched, we’ve maintained both the historypin.org website and the Historypin mobile app for iOS and Android, enabling people to discover and share material when they’re at their desks or when they are out in the world. Like all software, our mobile app requires constant maintenance to keep it working well with the most current versions of phones and tablets. Sadly, our mobile app has fallen behind the times, and a few things aren’t working as well as we’d like, so we have a choice to make. We could put more resources into maintaining the app as it exists now, or we could focus on some new areas of the historypin.org web platform, including new features that will work much better on mobile devices, and then build on that platform work with some excellent new mobile app tools later on.

We have made the decision to remove the Historypin mobile app from the Apple and Google Play stores. If you already have the app, it will continue to work, but we will no longer be making updates. This decision allows us to better serve our community of heritage activists by building a range of specific digital products, rather than just a single app that mirrors the desktop experience.

The community engagement projects we run have given us excellent feedback from people using historypin.org and the app, and it is clear that more lightweight, targeted mobile applications are needed. We’re planning to develop specific applications that make it easier to do just one thing–things which help open, enrich and inspire people to collaborate around cultural heritage. Things like recording an oral history, digitising a photo in a community centre, following a heritage trail to discover a local story or taking a “repeat” modern photo of a historical scene.

In the past four years the mobile technology landscape has also transformed. More people are using a greater variety of devices and the technologies to deliver content directly through mobile browsers. We are therefore focusing our efforts on designing “mobile first” experiences and harnessing HTML5 so that historypin.org will work seamlessly on all tablet and mobile browsers. Some of our new projects, for example “Mapping the Panama-Pacific International Exposition” already reflect this thinking, and work quite well on mobile platforms.

We’d also love to hear from you. Let us know what kinds of things are important to you in apps or the mobile experience. Are there elements of apps that your institution would be willing to pay for, or are spending budget on with vendors already? Are there ways you’re using apps or mobile to engage with your community, or would want to? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Thank you very much to everyone who has used our app so far; your support and feedback has been hugely valuable, and we look forward to launching more Historypin products to support community archiving. If you’re interested in working with us on them – coding, funding, beta testing or beyond, please get in touch with Jon, Historypin Strategic Partnerships Director, at jon.voss@historypin.org.

The First World War Centenary on Historypin

A home for local community First World War projects

Today we’re excited to launch the First World War Centenary hub on Historypin, a home for local community groups running First World War commemorative activities. We’re launching with some great projects from here in the United Kingdom, but this is a tool for all of your First World War remembrances from around the world.

At the core of the hub is a new set of collaborative tools that enable any group or organisation to set up your own project, add collaborators, upload materials and invite others to pin photos, videos and audio to this shared space.

If you’re running a local heritage project about the First World War, we’d love to have you on the hub! You can create your project here – just select “Add Project” and you’re on your way.

The hub has been created in partnership with the Heritage Lottery Fund who are funding thousands of projects across the UK to research, understand and commemorate the war in new and creative ways.

Hundreds of groups and organisations have already shared their activities and the hub is already showing a diverse picture of centenary activities. Take a look at some of the fantastic projects involved so far:

Explore the hub to see what’s happening near you and get involved!

As the Centenary unfolds, the number and scale of commemorative activities will grow. The First World War Centenary area on Historypin will do the same, evolving to best support, increase and sustain local collaborative activity which brings people together to access, share and create collective histories.

If you would like to work with us on centenary activities, we’d love to hear from you — just drop us a line at hello@historypin.org.

The First World War Centenary hub has been created in partnership with the Heritage Lottery Fund with the support of the Imperial War Museums, Arts and Humanities Research Council and JISC.

Becontree mural launch!

Have you drunk at The Merry Fiddler? Saved the day at Ley’s swimming pool? Or perhaps dived straight in at Dagenham Town Show?

Becontree’s colourful history will soon to be bought to life with the launch of a new mural at Valence House Museum & Visitor Centre. Artist Chad McCail has painted a 100 year history of the Becontree Estate, inspired by the photos, memories and stories shared by local people as part of This Used to be Fields. Everyone is invited to join the free launch celebration.


Venue: Valence House Museum & Visitor Centre, Dagenham, Essex, RM8 3HT

Date: Saturday 25th October

Time: 2pm-5pm

Free & un-ticketed (just turn up)


Chad McCail and Create will be there to introduce the mural, and Historypin will be on hand sharing our favourite local photos, films and stories in our ‘Becontree Memory Box’. The This Used to be Fields archive is yours to explore and contribute to, so dig around in your attics, dust off those old photo albums, and bring along your Becontree images to be shown, scanned, and shared.

You’ll be able to share them in comfort with friends and family too, as they’ll be free tea, coffee and cake provided, as well as some specially created arts activities for children from Scribble & Smudge

This Used to be Fields is a collaborative project delivered by Historypin and Create. The project has been commissioned by the Barbican, with funding from the Arts Council of England and additional support from Creative Barking and Dagenham.

Local libraries commemorate the First World War with their communities

We’re honoured to be hosting The Digital War Memorial on Historypin, an initiative to bring together libraries, communities and artists to create unique artistic responses to the First World War.

Ten libraries around the country have been working with members of their communities to explore the rich and diverse First World War historical materials in their collections, including photographs, letters and newspaper articles. Community groups then worked with local artists using poetry, dance, music, writing and visual arts to reflect on the impact of the First World War and how it resonates a century later.

All the historical materials, contemporary media and creative films and recordings made have been added to the Digital War Memorial on Historypin where they can be explored and further added to.

Face to face connections and live performances were foundational pillars of these projects, offering powerful ways for people to connect with their libraries and each other. But the complementary use of digital technologies offered innovative ways for the collaborations to be captured and curated, creating additional ways for people to participate and experience the projects.

In The Digital Scrapbook Leeds Library digitised an archival gem, a scrapbook created by a matron at Gledhow Hall, a country home transformed into a hospital during the war. The scrapbook is a treasure trove of photos, clippings, examples of craftwork made by the recovering soldiers. Through a series of workshops they opened this scrapbook to local writers and craft groups who created new material inspired by the Matron’s collection.

Students, song writers, musicians and choirs came together in Lest We Forget writing and performing poetry and songs inspired by research into local First World War stories and using digital tools such as SoundCloud to collaborate on the final audio recordings.

Over in Lancashire where students were exploring the theme of conscientious objectors, one of the final pieces was a powerful recreation of a tribunal hearing, based on the original transcript.

Visit the Digital War Memorial to explore these projects and all the others around the country.

The Digital War Memorial is run by the Society of Chief Librarians, with support from the British Library and funding from the National Lottery supported Grants for the arts: Libraries fun through Arts Council England.  Read more about the project here.


Becontree Mural Day

Saturday 25 October, 2-5pm
Address: Valence House Lawns, Becontree Avenue, Dagenham, RM8 3HTTo mark the completion of Chad McCail’s new mural inspired by life on the Becontree Estate we are delighted to invite you to a launch event at Valence House Museum & Archives. Please join us for an afternoon of free activities to celebrate this new work of public art.

Free drop-in activities include:

  • Family art workshops – Join Scribble and Smudge to create a model of the Becontree Estate
  • Historypin’s Becontree Memory Box – Join Historypin to enjoy local films, photos and stories
  • Meet the artist  – Chat about Becontree’s new mural with artist Chad McCail
Plus we will be offering free tea and cakes to all guests. We hope to see you there!

Chad McCail’s new mural is part of the This Used to be Fields, a new digital archive of photos and stories from the people of Becontree.

This Used to be Fields is a collaborative project delivered by Historypin and Create. The project has been commissioned by the Barbican, with funding from the Arts Council of England and additional support from Creative Barking and Dagenham.

This Used to be Fields: Help tell the history of the Becontree Estate

Built in the 1920s to house the growing population of East London and soldiers returning from the First World War, the Becontree Estate was the largest housing estate in Europe. The creation of the Estate transformed the countryside east of London from fields into homes for 100,000 people.

We’re inviting everyone who has lived, worked or passed through Becontree to share their photos and memories to create a shared history of the Estate. Explore what’s been added so far.

Have you got photos or stories about Becontree? Add them here!

Do you live in Becontree? Come along with your photos and memories to have them digitised and added to the archive.

Valence House Visitor Centre, Becontree Avenue
Tuesday 19 August 2 – 6pm
Tuesday 26 August 2 – 4pm
Tuesday 16 September 5 – 6pm

Kingsley Hall, Parsloes Avenue, Dagenham
Wednesday 13 August 6.30 – 8pm
Thursday 14 August 10.30 –11.30am

Dagenham Trades Hall, Charlotte Rd, Dagenham
Wednesday 13 August 2 – 4pm

A new mural at Valence House

The history, stories and photographs of Becontree will inspire a new mural at Valence House painted by artist Chad McCail.

Come and meet Chad

Drop in on Chad at his artist studio at Valence House to share your stories of the local area, show him your photos and chat about the mural.

Tuesday 12, Wednesday 13, Thursday 14 and Friday 15 August 12.30- 1.30pm
Saturday 16 August 10am – 4pm
Saturday 23 August 10am – 4pm

Come and see the mural being painted

Chad will be painting the mural with the help of local volunteers. Come along to see them in action, have a chat about the project and enjoy Valence House Museum & Archives.

Saturday 13th September 12 – 4pm
Saturday 20th September 12 – 4pm

Short-term vacancy: Supporting First World War history projects

Our friends at the Heritage Lottery Fund are looking for an enthusiastic and committed individual to join their team to help the First World War projects they fund share their activities on Historypin.

Job title: HLF Support Officer for the First World War Centenary hub 
Contract: Fixed term full time for 10 weeks. (40 hours per week including 1 hour for lunch)
Salary: £25k per annum
Start date: End of July 2014
Location: London SW1, with possible travel around the UK.
Closing date for applications: 
Tuesday 1 July 2014

This is an exciting opportunity to work with the Heritage Lottery Fund and a wide range of local First World War history projects across the UK. The role demands enthusiasm, flexibility, good interpersonal skills and commitment.

For more details about the role and how to apply, please see https://db.tt/tMOeetxv

Reflections on Putting Art on the Map

Over the last year we have been running Putting Art on the Map in partnership with the Imperial War Museum. With funding from the Nesta R&D Digital Innovation Fund we were able to test if crowdsourcing an art collection, in online and offline spaces, could generate deeper engagement with the collection. Through mystery-solving tools on Historypin and a series of live events with other institutional partners, we explored different ways of inviting the public to participate, collaborate and contribute new pieces of information to the artworks. The contributions fed into a co-curated Google Art Project by Dr Alice Strickland and the data gathered flowed back into IWMs’ collections.

Throughout the project there were strong examples of public contributions and evidence of deep engagement. However, the primary insight from by this project was that while metadata crowdsourcing in this form can deepen the social engagement of audiences that already have an interest in the subject or collection in question, it struggles to increase the initial breadth of engagement and does not show potential to engage new audiences.
In addition to this important distinction, we learned some key lessons about how to improve a crowdsouring project focusing on deepening engagement between interested audiences and an art collection:

  • Broad, open calls to action for people interested in First World War art were not effective in engaging a wider audience, while identifying specific communities of interest and requesting their help was more useful.
  • Inviting specific communities to engage their own existing networks was more effective in generating participation than trying to build a new community around a theme or topic
  • The ability to give clarity of purpose to participants in user-generated content projects is essential for their success, as is the need to explicitly value the expertise of users.
  • A high level of curatorial input from across different institutional departments, not just the art department, is important to ensure that the correct questions are being asked and participants feel their participation is genuinely needed and valued
  • Inviting factual contributions about an art collection is more challenging than other historical materials because of the role of artistic interpretation. This was often cited by participants who felt that it wasn’t possible or relevant to add factual details. Focusing on works which were more documentary in nature helped, but it was still a barrier to soliciting factual data.

Finally, the project raised new questions and highlighted several areas that need more research, experimentation and development to better understand them before effective tools, methods and outcomes can be determined. Of greatest interest to us is the relationship between online and offline participation. This offers great potential to increase and sustain engagement, but it is not yet clear how they relate in terms of participants moving between the two spaces, or with regard to if and how digital tools might be used during a live, group event. Over the coming year we will be continuing to explore these questions through other projects and iterating both our crowdsourcing toolset and methodologies for running collaborative, offline events.

We are compiling a full Research Report which we will post here once it is completed.

Methods and tips for running live crowdsourcing events

As part of Putting Art on the Map, we ran a series of live crowd-sourcing events. The basic format of these events was to identify a group of artworks around a particular theme, partner with another relevant institution and invite a group of people to come in to collaborate to explore and enrich the artworks with new layers of information. You can read about and see photos from all these events on our here.

This is a worked example of one of the events we ran to demonstrate the steps and methods that we found to be useful to run an event that participants enjoyed, found to be purposeful and captured useful information. This is just one way, not the only way, of structuring an event and it is important to note that this approach is structured around generating participation from a specialist group with an interest in the subject, rather than running an event for the general public who may be newcomers to the subject.

1. Identify a theme and need
Work closely with the curator of the collection to identify a group of content with a shared theme that has a genuine need to be enriched by a particular group of people. This needs to be matched with a group of people who might have the knowledge or experience to help, and it is useful if the people needed form a particular group or association already. Think about the questions that the institution has about the artworks that that group might be able to answer.

Artworks depicting nursing during the First World War; current and retired nurses or medical historians are likely to be able to help.

2. Identify a partner
with a network of relevant people
We found that general appeals through an institution’s public communication channels (eg. IWM’s twitter feed) weren’t very successful in attracting participants with the right kind of knowledge or generating high turnouts. It was more effective when we were able to approach a person or organisation that had a strong network of relevant people who could be invited to help. The person who lead the network often knew the right people to invite, a personal invite was more likely to lead to attendance and often the people in the network knew each other so collaboration during the event was easier. Make sure you harness your contact to think about what groups are relevant and involve them in the planning so you choose suitable times and locations.

We approached the archivist at the Royal College of Nursing who identified interested and relevant participants (eg. retired nurses interested in history, former military nurses, people writing books on First World War nursing) and was able to ensure that the event happened at the best time for them to maximise attendance.

3. Select a space
We ran events in a wide variety of spaces, from museum educational suites to shipyard warehouses and pubs. So in many ways the space doesn’t matter, as long as you know what it will be like and what limitations it might have (eg. no wi-fi) or opportunities (eg. electronic whiteboard). However, it is useful to pick somewhere that makes it easy for participants to attend, such as it’s familiar or they are already there for another activity.

Meeting room at the archive of the Royal College of Nursing HQ

4. Introduce the project, it’s purpose and why you have approached this group
Inviting people to contribute information to a collection during an event is unusual, so it is important to explain the purpose of the project, why you have asked them, what information you are looking for, how the session will work, what will happen to the information, how they can stay involved. Explaining a clear structure, purpose and need was very important in ensuring participants feel valued and their contributions are useful.

IWM has a series of artworks depicting nursing activities during WWI and we are not sure if the captions are accurate, or what some of the specific activities are, or what kind of people are depicted (eg. are they a military nurse or a volunteer nurse?)

5. Share printed copies of the artworks and project digital ones onto a screen
Projecting a digital version of the image onto a screen means that everyone can see it and you can benefit from things like being able to zoom in and highlight particular parts. However, many people also like printed copies to see detail and colour better, and it means that they can annotate them.

6. Work as a single group
Aim to have 10 – 15 people, then you can all look at images together. This is beneficial as it means that you pool the knowledge of everyone there – if people work in smaller groups or pairs around particular images, you have a smaller knowledge base. It also generates more opportunities for questions, conversations and debate.

7. Have 2 facilitators (specialist and non-specialist) to ask questions and prompt the group
Having someone to guide the session is essential. One person who does not share the specialism of the participants can be useful as they might ask questions that participants assume are known (eg. what is that medical instrument, what does that badge on the nurses uniform mean?). But it is also helpful to have someone who is knowledgeable about the topic so can guide more subject specific conversations.

We had someone from Historypin and the archivist from RCN helping facilitate.

8. Go through each artwork
Project a single artwork onto the screen. For each one, start off with some of the questions that the curatorial team have identified (eg. identifying unknown elements, checking if the curatorial caption is correct) or things that a non-specialist is curious about. People will also start to volunteer information and a conversation will develop around it. Go through each artwork in turn. Have more artworks than you need, and when you take a break you can invite the participants to look through them and see which ones they would like to explore. This is useful as people can match their skills and interest to the collection.

Someone who had worked as a military nurse was able to add lots of information to a painting showing a military train moving injured soldiers

9. Have a single person recording what’s said
It is useful if this person can type notes into a document alongside the images during the session. This person should understand the kind of information the project wants to capture (eg. factual data rather than anecdotal stories) so that they can record the most relevant parts of the conversation for the project. They should be part of the facilitation team, and able to interject into the conversation to ask participants to clarify what they mean, spell things, give reasons for their suggestions etc.

10. Wrap up and follow up
Re-cap on the purpose of the project and the next steps – where the information will go, if you re running more events, how people can carry on participating (eg. with a tool, on Facebook, send an email).


1. Identify a genuine need in your collection and a group that you think has the knowledge to help. We observed that when there was a close match between the subject matter and a group who had a similar level of knowledge and experience, there was greater depth of engagement, contributions were more useful and participants’ enjoyment was higher.

2. Target specific groups or individuals with a shared interest. We found that targeted invitations was more effective at securing high attendance and effective participation than broad invitations to large general interest. Building a relationship with a well connected person in that group was also useful, as they were able to harness their social ties to invite people which was more effective than impersonal invitations from an institution.

3. Build your event around the group that you want to work with. If you want to engage the local history society whose members know about boat building, run your event in their space after their afternoon meeting, not in the museum on the weekend.

4. Use a combination of good quality print outs and high resolution images wherever possible. Both help participants to engage with each other, the images and find details that prompt discussion and research routes.

5. Encourage people to bring their own digital devices to help people to research simultaneously and reduce how much equipment you have to provide.

Farewell to Wilma

We are very sad to say good bye to our lovely intern Wilma who has been brilliant and a huge help with our pinning needs over the last few months. Thanks Wilma!

Name: Wilma Stefani

Role: Historypin Intern

Why did you want to intern at Historypin?
As an archaeologist and videographer, I am interested in exploring ways of communicating historical themes to the general public, and I discovered Historypin during my MA in Digital Humanities: I thought this project was brilliant in giving people the opportunity to share their pictures and stories online, and I was interested in how they were using social media to achieve that.

How did you come to hear of the project?
My supervisor at King’s College. Dr. Stuart Dunn, suggested me to apply for an internship at Historypin, as it could be interesting as a case study for my dissertation, which aims at analysing users’ comments and responses to historical themes shared in online platforms.

Describe an average day for you as a Historypin Intern
Beside general tasks such as choosing the Pin of the Day and helping in organising images and videos uploaded by users, most of the time I was following a particular project, Putting Art on the Map, a project which invites the public to solve mysteries about the collection of paintings held at the Imperial War Museum. I’ve been creating some of the mysteries and collating and publishing the answers provided by the participants to the live events organised by Rebekkah and Alex, as well as keeping at the same time track of the content posted through social media.
What do you do when you’re not at Historypin?
I love Art in all its forms…films, music, dance, figurative arts, and London offers so much in terms of cultural events. When I have a day off I like visiting museums and going to the theatre.

What’s been your best moment here?
I had the opportunity to take part in a live event at the Gordon Museum, where some medical professionals provided information about a selection of IWM paintings with a medical subject. I was amazed by the engagement of the participants, they analysed the paintings discussing in group and they came out with some great responses.

What is the oddest job you’ve been asked to do in the name of Historypin?
Nothing really odd, but I may have developed new deciphering skills, as while transcribing the comments written by participants to the live events, I was trying to understand the sometime illegible calligraphy of some of them…!

What excites you the most about Historypin?
I think that the opportunity to pin the photos on the Street View is an excellent idea, visually intriguing and fun to do.

Can you show us a photo you have personally pinned on Historypin?
Not a photo but a painting, ”Con: Camp’ – Genoa’ by Olive Mudie-Cooke, from the IWM collection. It was exciting to discover that this corner of Genoa has barely changed since 1919: and also to find so many paintings depicting Italian landscapes, including some near my hometown, in the north of Italy. Now I’ll have to go to see them at the museum!

"'Con: Camp' - Genoa' by Olive Mudie-Cooke, shared by IWM

What’s your favourite photo that has been pinned to the Historypin map and why?I chose this photo as Pin of The Day, and I love it because I think it shows so well the contrasts and liveness of London, in the 60s as well as nowadays.

Carnaby Street, 1960, shared by robertloch

What kind of content would you like to see more of on Historypin?
I would be very happy to see more videos uploaded, especially black and white footage from the old days.

Why do you think people should add their photos and stories to Historypin?
I think one can see the intersection between family and national stories as something we all have in common as human beings and citizens. Historypin offers an online space where anyone can participate, making them appreciate the history and culture of the place where they live.

What do you think the future of Historypin is?
It would be great to see the project developing also in new countries: I think Historypin has a great potential in connecting people from different generations and backgrounds, and can also be increasingly used in schools to engage students with their past.

Contact:  wilmastefani.wordpress.com