Working With Memory and Place in Senior Care Homes

Hearing stories around photos brought in by a resident at Rhoda Goldman Plaza, an assisted living facility in San Francisco, CA.

Recently, the Historypin team in San Francisco, and a memory care home in West Lafayette, Indiana, have run/will run pilots on using Historypin with seniors. Here is a short breakdown:

  • Historypin in SF: As part of Historypin’s Bay Area Jewish project Sourdough & Rye, the San Francisco team helped carry out a community pilot at Rhoda Goldman Plaza, a senior care home in the city. Over two two-week rounds, we worked with a handful of seniors to help them think about their lives in terms of place, while behind-the-scenes thinking about the materials we would need to get these memories from the room to Historypin. Some important places we tried to highlight were childhood homes, a first school, where a resident was married, first job, etc.
  • Using Historypin in an Indiana care home: At the end of September 2015, the Westminster Village care home, in West Lafayette, Indiana, will team up with the West Lafayette Public Library to help the care home residents contribute photos focused on Tippecanoe County (encompassing the WL area) or wherever they consider “home” prior to moving to Westminster. The WLPL will use these contributions as the basis for a “Westminster Collection” on Historypin, and the pilot will be treated as a gateway activity; residents who are interested in participating more fully with their personal history will receive assistance on establishing a separate Historypin Tour.

Some resources so far on procedure:

RG Plaza:

  • Before our first iteration, we came up with a format that includes a binder or folder with a number of worksheets. This included a consent form and a brief bio form. There were also sheets that represent info from a pin on Historypin, where we could record a resident’s memories of particular places. During this first iteration, we recruited volunteers to help us record info in small groups. Not wanting to solely rely on the internet at RGP, most of this session was done mainly offline.

Rhoda Goldman session release form | Rhoda Goldman story collecting sheet

  • After this first iteration, we came up with a format that includes a booklet that correspond to the Tour functionality on Historypin: a cover sheet which has a map and place for a participant photo, and pages which represent the info from a pin, including a map and place for an address, a place to clip a photo, date and other details. Along with this booklet we included a consent form.
August 28th, 2015: Here I am with Maxine Greenspan, a resident of Rhoda Goldman and subject of our first completed Tour (at the link below.)

August 28th, 2015: Here I am with Maxine Greenspan, a resident of Rhoda Goldman and subject of our first completed Tour (at the link below.)

  • For the second iteration, we did an introductory presentation to residents, showing them an example of a completed Tour (and pins). We really underlined this time that we’re trying to “put life stories on the map,” which is about individuals on their own journey, but also about the communities they’ve been a part of in their life. Then we set up 90-minute slots to gather content and stories (had 2-3 people on our team working with individuals), during which we used a recorder and a laptop to explore places as residents remembered them. The idea was to think through the booklet we made, and try to pull out around 5 important places that could encompass “Mapping the Story of My Life.” We are continuing to put together Historypin Tours based on these second round of interviews, many of which built upon resident interviews during the first round.

Westminster: Though still in the process of prep, the overall plan is as follows:

  • Resident Collection sheets will be distributed at the close of the introductory presentation, and also direct to resident mailboxes. The sheets will include general information about the photo(s) residents want to contribute, and a waiver for public use.
  • Residents will be asked to bring their completed collection sheet with their photos to scanning workshop dates, where their information sheet with a signature and photo will be scanned (separately) and saved. During each workshop, the WLPL will provide one scanning station and WV will provide a second. WLPL will upload all scanned photos and content to Historypin.
  • After the initial scan workshop WLPL will, based on interest, continue additional scanning workshops in conjunction with normal bi-weekly WLPL visits to Westminster.
  • After the “Westminster Collection” is complete, WV will coordinate a program for residents to see the finished collection on Historypin.


All of the above briefly summarizes the thinking and set-up behind starting community memory pilots two senior care homes. Note that these are both still underway, but please field any questions you have here!

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.

Digging into WWI and Family History

With the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand last week, we’re now officially entering the Centenary of the First World War (or WWI as we call it in the States).  We’ll be sharing a lot of exciting projects we’re involved in over the coming weeks and months, but for now many of us on the Historypin team are getting deep into research of all types.  My own personal research has revolved around my grandfather’s WWI journal, complete with a couple dozen tiny photographs.  As I’ve shared these resources with my extended family, more pieces of the picture are coming into focus (oh!).  Just today I received the original Kodak Vest Pocket Camera my grandfather used in the war from my cousin Dan, who received the camera as a gift from my grandfather many years ago.  I’m looking forward to figuring out how we’ll incorporate the use of this camera for one of our many First World War projects!

Photos from my grandfather's Vest Pocket Camera including other servicemen taking photos, and the camera itself.

My Day of DH with some of the Historypin Team

This is a cross-post from the Day of DH 2014 events on April 8, 2014.

Day of DH is an open community publication project that brings together scholars interested in the digital humanities from around the world to document what they do on one day, April 8th, answering the question, “Just what do digital humanists really do?”

The April 8, 2014 Pin of the Day on Historypin, from the Sourdough & Rye Project

The April 8, 2014 Pin of the Day on Historypin, from the Sourdough & Rye Project

I guess I close the timezones for the Historypin team on our Day of DH, which has seen our team busy around the globe today. Started early for me after midnight last night as I was up late doing  research on how the OpenGLAM community is using or can use git as a tool to collaboratively track changes and edits to open datasets.  From a community perspective, it’s a pretty fascinating look at how the dream of the Web can support collaboration free from corporate “walled gardens.”  The reason I’ve been looking at this example is thanks to the folks at Indiana University who recently shared the metadata for the Cushman Collection on github, which we’re working to start zooming in on lat/longs for sharing on Historypin, and want to make sure we do so in a way that adds to the data and potential reuse  and scholarship.  If you’re unfamiliar with this collection,  you’ve got to check it out!

These are the kinds of rabbit holes we fall into regularly in our work at Historypin–helping people discover and share amazing treasures taking us back in time.  While I slept, dreaming of csv files, the team in London and Bulgaria were busy at work on a number of projects.  Breandán was busy in Brussels with the Europeana Creative project, one of four major collaborative projects we’re working on in support of Europeana.

As my morning usually begins in SF, I caught up with the team in Europe first thing.  Breandán and I and a few others in the office were coordinating reporting processes for these projects, which, as you can imagine, can be pretty complex with the numbers of partners involved.  Then popping into the London office via Google Hangout or chat, where our Senior Designer, Kate was putting the finishing touches on mockups for one of our partner projects, the Stanford-led and Mellon-funded Crowdsourcing for Humanities Research.   A quick check-in with Rebekkah Abraham, our amazing Historypin Director of Operations, as we are in the midst of a flurry of Project releases at the moment, including East at Main Street, which launched last week.

From there it was on to DC for a planning meeting and then another soon-to-be-announced project.  Today these meetings included some DPLA searches to find indications for possible content partners for one of the projects. It’s amazing to have an ever-growing number of resources at our fingertips to aid the discovery and reuse of cultural heritage content.

The afternoon is catchup on email (since I was out all last week, still plenty of triage happening), and long overdue blog posts.  By the end of the day, I often move my attention over to partners in Australia and New Zealand, who are already starting their tomorrow. Today I got a pictorial walkthrough of an exhibit just closing outside of Melbourne, Australia, for which we worked with the Yarra Ranges Regional Museum to create a pinning station and touchscreen display to highlight their outreach to communities surrounding historical main streets of the area.

Changing Places, a Yarra Ranges Project on Historypin complementing their exhibit.

Changing Places, a Yarra Ranges Project on Historypin complementing their exhibit.

And that wraps up another whirlwind day (at least until kids are fed, scotch is sipped, and Harry Potter read, then probably a bit more). As always, feeling very fortunate to work with so many smart, passionate people working to share stories and build community around our shared and often unknown past.

Project Officers Max and Kerri go to the 2014 National Council on Public History

Check-in table at the Monterey Conference Center in Monterey, CA.

Hello from Max Baumgarten and Kerri Young, Project Officers at Historypin, here to tell you about our experience at the 2014 National Council on Public History conference in Monterey, California last week:

This year’s National Council on Public History conference was held in Monterey, California, which lucky for us, is only a two-hour drive from the Historypin office in San Francisco. Taking a day-long road trip from San Francisco to Monterey gave us the opportunity to drive along the Pacific Coast Highway, snack on salt water taffy, and, of course, learn about some new and exciting developments and projects in the field of public history.

Touristy shops near the activities at the Monterey Conference Center.

With projects like Sourdough & Rye, Year of the Bay, Europeana 1989, Historypin is constantly trying to engage with history in an effort to cultivate communities and create local connections. This year’s NCPH conference—with its theme of Sustainable Public History—was the ideal place to learn about other projects with similar goals. That is, the desire to preserve historical resources while still aiming to meet the needs of the present and future.

Cover of this year's NCPH program.

Some fun activities we engaged in included some speed networking, a panel exploring the teaching of sustainability through digital Los Angeles, talking with local history vendors in the exhibit hall, and attending a panel on an oral history endeavor here in the Bay Area from the National Park Service and UC Berkeley’s Regional Oral History Office (ROHO).

The panel Crowdsourcing and Public History: Reports from the Field was particularly insightful. Anthea Hartig of the California Historical Society talked about their collaboration with Historypin for their exhibit Curating the Bay: Crowdsourcing a New Environmental History. As many may have read about from us, this exhibit incorporated our Year of the Bay project in the form of a touch screen and pinning station, the latter for visitors to bring in their Bay Area memories to scan into the project. The exhibit itself asked visitors to help solve some Bay history mysteries, and in conjunction with this Historypin rolled out our mystery-solving interface for the first time. From the perspective of the California Historical Society, the power of Historypin lies in our layered sense of place, and its ability to let users travel back in time. Visitors had fun exploring contributed memories within the exhibit on the touch screen, though they were also more comfortable contributing their own memories at home rather than bring in photos to a pinning station. Other thoughts from Anthea included the success in utilizing the SF Chronicle to post history mysteries (with the photos also pinned to Year of the Bay), the relative ease in tracking Historypin site activity through Google Analytics, and the fact that most interaction with CHS photos occurred over social media (including mysteries). Overall (and we agree), it was a hard sell asking people to bring in photos physically to scan onto our website, even with a Project Officer stationed there; the project’s success relies on building trust from both individuals and institutions before they can contribute, and this takes many months after the project launch to gain traction (and more than the couple of months the exhibit was open).

Anthea Hartig of the California Historical Society introducing findings from working with Historypin's Year of the Bay project.

Kerri at the Curating the Bay pinning station in the California Historical Society this past summer.

Rebecca Federman from the New York Public Library’s talked about the menu transcribing project, What’s on the Menu?; so far, volunteers have helped to transcribe over 17,000 historic menus, helping to track food trends over time. Crowdsourcing the history of lunch certainly brought out food enthusiasts to help, as well as community groups and individuals. Hiring interns to do outreach over social media, designing a simple interface, creating simple how-to’s, and getting rid of registration were and are all crucial to the project’s success, though a lack of the latter makes it harder to track the user base. Creating more targeted events to do this, as well as thinking about how the project can be transferred over for researchers in the future were some thoughts for moving forward.

Lorraine McConaghy from the Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry spoke about her ambitious efforts to crowdsource Civil War history in the state of Washington, so local residents could participate in the ongoing national discussion about the war in the Pacific Northwest and its meaning. Some lessons learned was that the project needed a more streamlined process for dealing with the tech involved, that it needed more volunteers or interns to answer daily inquiries, more training days for the public, and that the facilitators underestimated how much editing they would need to maintain consistency. However, the project gained about 150 solid readers to analyze Civil War texts; the appeal lay in the fact that what they were exploring was not known before about the Civil War in the Pacific Northwest, and that participants found out lots of new information only obtained through deep reading.

Rebecca Federman talking about the New York Public Library's "What's on the Menu?" crowdsourcing project.

While each of these wonderful crowdsourcing projects have adopted distinct approaches to crowdsourcing history, they collectively see public engagement as a key strategy for creating and making accessible new kinds of history. Engagement in these projects are what makes them successful; a comment, suggestion, or annotation can make all the difference in measuring a project’s success. For us at Historypin, there is always much to learn on the crowdsourcing front, and being able to connect and learn from others who are using similar or different approaches is invaluable.

Overall, this was a very insightful trip and a great national gathering, and we met many public historians doing great work. We hope to see you at the next one!

-Max Baumgarten and Kerri Young

Browse the full program of this year’s NCPH conference, and don’t forget that you can still contribute your memories and solve some history mysteries in our Year of the Bay project.

Interview with Joyce, Historypin Intern


Name: Joyce Yu

Role: Historypin intern

Why did you want to intern at Historypin?

I love maps and I love storytelling. Historypin combines those two things together. I’m in what’s known as the Digital Humanities and Historypin is one of my favourite examples of how digital tools can be paired with areas in the Humanities and Social Sciences to create an incredibly unique way to share and display content.

How did you come to hear of the project?

I originally found Historypin by searching through the App store on my iPhone. I was interested in seeing if there were any established applications that allowed users the ability to geolocate their current locations and show them old images or interactive media of the same location. From there, I was lead to the website and different forms of social media associated with Historypin.

Describe an average day for you as a Historypin Intern

Every day brings something different and another cool project to explore. There have been several days where the focus was on uploading stories and photos to finish a project. There could be a few days where I’m meeting participants who are testing the interface of the website and another day where I’m looking at art from World War 1.

What do you do when you’re not at Historypin?

I’m not from London so I’ve spent a lot of time walking around and getting lost in neighbourhoods. I think the best way to explore a city is to get lost and see what unfolds. I also like to pretend that I’m a local, but my tendency to walk around with my neck angling towards the sky trying to find a street sign gives me away, every time. I’m also finishing my thesis on psychogeography and digital mapping so there are days when I’m tucked away in a coffee shop with my laptop.

What’s been your best moment here?

There have been many, but it was a great moment to see images on a spreadsheet become a collection of stories on a finished project (Europeana 1989). It’s also been really fun to see how all the pieces fall together from behind the scenes.

What is the oddest job you’ve been asked to do in the name of Historypin?

Honestly, I can’t think of anything that I’ve done here that’s odd. Although, I had pockets of missing knowledge from World War 1 that I can now say have been successfully filled.

What excites you the most about Historypin?

I love the way that maps and city spaces can be represented with memories and stories. I’ve found myself thinking, “how do we show that on a map?” every time someone shows me a collection of photos or even a spreadsheet of data.

Can you show us a photo you have personally pinned on Historypin?

This is one of my favourite places in my hometown and I grew up walking up and down these streets. Historical factoid: This would have been the first point of contact with the city when new settlers would see when they got off the train.

What’s your favourite photo that has been pinned to the Historypin map and why?

I can’t decide on a single photo that is my favourite, but I love the Remember how we used to and Year of the Bay collections.

What kind of content would you like to see more of on Historypin?

This may only be tangentially related, but I would love to see a collection of people’s individual mental maps overlayed on top of the conventional map. We all see and navigate our city a little differently and it would be really interesting to see how that changes over time.

What do you think the future of Historypin is?

I can only see Historypin growing bigger because of how many bridges it has to different worlds. The projects work on such an incredible interdisciplinary level that brings people from the digital world, history, design, archives…it’s all relevant and everyone’s excited. I see great things.

Contact @joycemyu

Crowdsourcing Year of the Bay #historymysteries

One of our #historymysteries: Possibly one of the very first color photographs of San Francisco, taken by Frederick Eugene Ives after the city's devastating 1906 earthquake.

Recently, we’ve started rolling out some exciting new history mysteries from our Year of the Bay project. Every week, we’ve been picking photos pinned to the project that we need more information on-whether a date, location, business information, etc.-and ask for your help in finding out more about it. This is great chance for us to harness the power of crowdsourcing, in order to help build more accurate data for local collections; in this case those in the San Francisco Bay Area. Using social media via our Facebook and Twitter feeds to open up conversations over these local mysteries, we’ve asked for your help and have already seen some great interactions and feedback.

Our most recent mystery was a stunning color photo taken after the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco (above), discovered only recently by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. After posting about it, we got some great responses from those such as @VisitCalifornia, @DataPointed, and Chris Salvano. Chris, a librarian and archivist, even made an awesome Google Map with all photo’s known data points:

A Google map from Chris Salvano gathering all the known buildings and businesses in Ives' photo, helping in our effort to find the location from which Ives' took the photo. Click the image to explore the map!

We love when you cite sources in your comments, and with this particular history mystery we’ve gotten some great ones:

A drawing of San Francisco's old City Hall (left), from Chris Salvano; the corner circled is possibly the building in our mystery photo (right)

Another one from Chris Salvano, depicting a photo of Hibernia Bank on Jones and McAllister. But look behind it-it's the church from our 1906 photo (also seen directly above in the photo detail)!

Detail of a pocket map of San Francisco from 1892, depicting old City Hall (triangular corner in lower right) and the general area the photo could have been taken from. Contributed by @VisitCalifornia.

Detail from a San Francisco-Oakland city directory from 1907, listing Wittman, Lyman & Co. at 315 Polk St., the "Plumbers & Electricians" building in our mystery photo (detail on the right). From @DataPointed

With these sources and more, we have been able to narrow down the location where Ives stood to take the photo down to a single block! We’ve also moved the pin on Historypin:

We are keeping all of these mysteries open, so if you come across one that has gone out a week or two ago that you want to comment one, don’t hesitate to! Explore our Facebook page and look out for the posts with hashtag #historymystery to see all the ones we’ve done.

Thanks to all of those who have engaged with these mysteries so far, and we look forward to finding out to solving more photo mysteries with you!

Historypin needs your help!

School girls using computers, 1987. Pinned by Mirrorpix Archives.

Self-improvement is very important to us here at Historypin, and this month we’re working on developing new tools and refining current ones on our website. We couldn’t do it without you though, so we’re looking for some eager participants who would like to come in to the office, have a cuppa and test some current and new features on the Historypin website with one of our team members.

We’re looking for people who are fairly new to Historypin, so if you’re a long-time user, introduce us to one of your friends or family members and come along! We’d love to meet you and send you both home with some swag that includes some of our We Are What We Do stationery ( ), Historypin stickers and postcards.

If you’d like to participate, please fill out our contact form here and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible!

Click here for contact form

Some info:


We have limited spaces for participants so we’ll contact people in the order that they respond. We are looking for relatively new users to Historypin, but if you’ve been following Historypin for awhile and forward this post to someone new, we’d love to meet both of you.


Participants will get a sneak peak at new features to the Historypin website and give direct input on how they can be refined. We’ll ask you to test a few simple tasks using new/existing tools and ask that you to share your experience.


We’ll be working out of our London office, so apologies for those who aren’t local. More details on the location will be sent out when we start contacting participants.

Once we start receiving participation requests, we’ll start sending out specific times and dates for you to choose from. We are looking for people on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays during the daytime.


It will be a completely painless process – promise! We will need approximately 1 ½ hour of your time and you’re welcome to withdraw at any time. This would include a short interview, a set of tasks involving tools on the Historypin website, and a brief exit questionnaire. And, don’t forget about that cuppa.


University of Wisconsin Scrapbooks and More

In this edition of Better Know an Archivist (thanks Stephen Colbert), we talk to Vicki Tobias at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Archives.

Historypin: What do you do, exactly?

Vicki Tobias: Since 2010 I’ve served as the Images and Media Archivist for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Archives.

I’ve always loved history. I’m a fanatical genealogist and love nothing more that tackling a good history mystery, whether my own or someone else’s. I feel quite lucky/blessed to have landed a career that perfectly marries my love of history and enthusiasm for sharing it!

How and when did you come across Historypin and what made you decide it was worth pursuing for UW and your work?

A friend and colleague who works for the Wisconsin Historical Society initially introduced me to Historypin – maybe two years ago? I was immediately impressed with the organization’s mission statement which talked about bringing together generations through shared history. This idea is at the core of our work in the UW Archives. Historypin is a great tool for showing change over time and is the type of tool/project that inspires a user to further explore their own place in history. Any tool that prompts a user to ask “I wonder what was here 100 years ago?” or “I wonder what’s there now?” is a success in my book.

In the UW Archives, we host a bevy of volunteer, intern, practicum and paid student staff. They all want to work on projects that include a “technology element.” Building a collection in Historypin from start to finish (e.g. scanning, researching metadata, uploading, outreach, etc.) provides our students an opportunity to apply technology skills in an archives environment and results in a great end-product they can then link to on a resume or application. We’ve had great success with students creating Collections in Historypin.

You’ve got a great variety of photos across campus, and we’ve noticed these amazing scrapbook collections you’ve been sharing lately. What can you tell us about the scrapbooks, and do you have a strategy in sharing these?

Why, thank you! We’ve had great fun selecting content to add to our Historypin collection. I wanted our campus history collection (on Historypin) to include more than a bunch of photos of historic buildings. I thought it would be interesting to try to tell a student’s story using Historypin and items from historic student scrapbooks. The UW Archives has a great (and growing) collection of scrapbooks dating from the late 1880s through the 1960s. They include all sorts of memorabilia, photos, clippings and other “bits and pieces” that wonderfully illuminate the college student experience. Selecting and pinning location-based items provides a different and more nuanced interpretation of each scrapbook – allowing a user to better understand the places and spaces inhabited by a student during a particular period in our campus and town history. For example, an invitation to a dance held at the Stock Pavilion on campus (still in existence), a monthly bill for items purchased from a “sweet shop” on Capitol Square (no longer there), a photo taken during summer vacation “up north” in Wisconsin. When viewed on a Historypin map, these items prompt a user to ponder questions of mobility and transportation (How did one traverse the distance from campus to the aforementioned sweet shop – walking? trolley car? Were there sidewalks? Horses?), use of space on campus (Dances held in the Stock Pavillion? Really?) and other questions that might not be apparent when simply flipping through a scrapbook. Seeing items on a map presents an entirely different view of the story being told by the scrapbook creator.

What excites you most about Historypin, and how do you envision it being utilized at UW and other college campuses?

I love the idea of user-generated content. It would be fabulous if other campus units with an interest in building community around shared campus history could collaboratively build collections in Historypin. Likewise, I think Historypin might be an interesting tool for uniting alumni to build collections that illuminate their shared experiences.

What is your favourite piece of content that you have pinned?

Last year, we built a new collection – Lawrence Monthey: 1959 Tour of the Soviet Union which documents this UW faculty person’s trip to that region. The slides are beautiful (and in color!) and include images of many iconic locations in the former Soviet Union. I love the following photo of St. Basil’s Cathedral (Sept. 1959) and the juxtaposition of the historic and current street views.

It’s one of my favorite UW Archives collections and a perfect fit for Historypin.