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.

Bay Area Resident José Vadi Shares His Father’s Memories of a East Harlem Home Now Lost.

Firefighters from FDNY help to contain the building collapse at Park Avenue in East Harlem, March 12, 2014. Photo from FDNY.

Around 9:30 am on March 12, 2014, two buildings once standing by 116th Street and Park Avenue in New York City’s East Harlem neighborhood were gone, leveled by an explosion from an apparent gas leak. Residents of East Harlem, also called Spanish Harlem and El Barrio, are still mourning the blast that killed 8 and injured over 50, and several community efforts continue to help rebuild the local neighborhood and help those affected.

In the wake of this tragedy comes this insightful guest blog from José Vadi, a writer and performer based in Oakland, CA and founder of the youth storytelling Off/Page Project. Before the collapse, José took the opportunity to capture his father on film revisiting his old East Harlem apartment—one of the buildings lost to the gas explosion. José kindly shared this family memory with us and pinned the video to his Channel, giving his story an even greater sense of place and the change the neighborhood has undergone. Here is what José had to say about sharing his father’s memories on Historypin:

I think it’s important to visualize the before and after of our city’s architectural landscape, especially after such tragic events as those that happened this month in East Harlem. It also helps recognize Uptown’s position in the context of Manhattan and New York at large, and how that sense of feeling removed and alone permeates my father’s memory of a building so filled with life, its underbelly, and the people who comprise its day to day.

The video on (a still yet-to-be-updated) Street View for some perspective of what the street and building looked like right before the collapse (click to view on Historypin).

Below is José’s story behind his bid to revisit the past with his father, an insightful piece called What Happens After a Collapse (also posted on Colorlines)?:

On March 12, 2014, my father forwarded a New York Times article with the headline “At Least 2 Killed in East Harlem Building Collapse.” A brief note from my Dad followed:

Dear Friends, This is the building where I grew up until I was 22 years old (1646 Park Avenue, apartment 7). If those walls could speak! They would tell a tale of immense suffering with small periods of joy.

Growing up, my sister and I heard stories about East Harlem every day from our dad. Tales of unscrupulous landlords. Our abusive grandfather. Stories of newly arrived Puerto Rican squatters filling his apartment to the brim, toiling in the family-owned bodega and the years it stole from my grandmother. My father would describe coughing up soot in the morning, filling shoe soles with cardboard, fighting Italian gangs on the way to school, and singing du-wop in his school hallways. For these reasons, I always associated New York as a place to overcome and leave, instead of a place to live and settle.

I read the article on my phone riding on BART between Oakland and San Francisco and was shocked to hear about the explosion and subsequent collapse of 1644 and 1646 Park Avenue, two neighboring tenements off 116th Street that shared an eastern view with the elevated Metro North line. To date, eight people have died despite rescue efforts to find trapped and missing residents. But in the context of what I know about my father’s life, this was the last of many remaining threads connecting him to the neighborhood he calls home, slowly eroding with every passing year.

I called my dad that night from the kitchen table in my studio apartment. As my elbows rested on the faux wood grain, I remembered my father earned his undergraduate diploma from CCNY – the “poor man’s Harvard” —using an ironing board for a desk until the age of 22. I asked him how he felt about hearing the news. He breathed a heavy sigh. “First, the neighborhood went away – La Marketa’s no longer there, 125th Street’s a mall, the people are all gone. Now, my building’s collapsed. I really don’t have a home anymore. I have no connection to my city anymore, my neighborhood. I’m totally uprooted.”

A photo of José's father with his ironing board, which he used as a desk until the age of 22. This photo was taken at José's grandmother's old house in Aguada, Puerto Rico a few years ago by family friend Daniel Perez.

In February 2010, my father, who lives in Los Angeles, went to New York for the first time since the early ’80s to participate in a lifetime achievement ceremony for East Harlem community activist Rev. Norman Eddy. Rev. Eddy hired my father at the age of 18 to be the director of housing relocation for the Metro North Citizens’ Committee. The program worked heavily along 100th Street, temporarily relocating tenants so that their homes could be refurbished while maintaining their original exteriors. This was Eddy’s attempt to prevent the community plight and disruption currently associated with gentrification and rising rents. His plan lead to cooperative ownership of buildings among tenants, to them having a stake of ownership within their East Harlem community.

Before the collapse, I wanted to document the stories I heard growing up as a kid, no matter how painful for my dad or myself. The goal was to visit 1646 Park Avenue, Apartment 7. I borrowed a FlipCam from my friend, and asked another to film my Dad and me together in his old neighborhood, for the first time. It snowed that day. Still, my father’s pace quickened as he walked across his former neighborhood pointing out where along La Marketa previously existed; his technique for selling shopping bags to patrons for five cents; the high school formerly named after Benjamin Franklin where my father trained for the Millrose Games; where he ran laps inside the hallways during the winter. He showed me the top of the subway stairs where he and his brother would fist fight with the other shoe shine boys, desperate to catch a customer. My pops noted the racial divides by block between Puerto Ricans and Italians along 3rd Avenue and the sewer caps on 117th Street that served as a stickball diamond for their ragtag neighborhood gang. I knew if I ever had the opportunity to walk alongside my dad down the streets where he grew up, I’d go along. I wanted to feel as close as possible to the trajectory that somehow lead to my own existence, starting at its root: 116 and Park.

The fragility of human life was apparent for quite tragic reasons after the collapse, yet I was grateful to have taken the opportunity to have filmed my father in a place he once called home. I wonder now if any of those whose lives were taken last week were living in the building while we were filming; if their stories could have been told to preserve, to share what went untold in homes whose exteriors never truly represent what’s held inside.

When a building falls, do those stories ever die?

I wonder whether Eddy’s plans of cooperative, resident-owned housing would fly in today’s New York economy. I wonder how you preserve a bruise while healing from the original blow? And what of those few moments of joy my father described, how do they shine through a building that to my father’s recollection is a recurring travel through a thorn-lined Babel? And of whatever walls are built in the wake of these building’s collapse, I wonder if future generations will know their true history and who laid the first foundation of East Harlem.

U.S. National Park Street Views on Historypin

Sequoia National Park in California, one of the newest additions to Google Street View.

Recently, Google added some new Street Views of U.S. National Parks and monuments, allowing you to explore some of the best parks and historical sites from the comfort of your own home. For a while now, Google has been taking their Street View cameras off the street and into forests, parks, and even the inside of buildings, which adds many more possibilities for sharing your content with us on Historypin. Naturally, we wanted to see what existing pins we could overlay after these recent Street View additions, and we found some great ones! Here is a small selection of some of the wonderful U.S. National Park memories on our Historypin map, newly-added to Street View (click the photos to fade the overlays):

Mount Rushmore, South Dakota, 2000. Shared by user 15siirma.

From user 15siirma: “The mountain has the President’s faces of George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln. Mount Rushmore is one of the places that my family took a vacation to visit. The best memory I have would be scrounging around in the gift shop, begging my parents to buy something for me. The people in the picture are my three brothers and I, with a bunch of tourists in the background. The place is important to many other people in the United States.”

Old Faithful Geyser, Yellowstone National Park, 1936, shared by Paul's Family Photos.

From user Paul’s Family Photos: “My grandmother, father (left) and Uncle Paul in front of Old Faithful during a trip to Yellowstone Park in 1936.”

Daguerreotype of the Alamo, Texas, 1849, shared by the Briscoe Center of American History.

From the Briscoe Center of American History’s Channel: “Daguerreotype of the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas. This daguerreotype was made in 1849, thirteen years after the famous battle between the attacking Mexican forces commanded by General Antonio López de Santa Anna and defending Texan forces co-commanded by William Travis and James Bowie.”

Marchers at the Lincoln Memorial, August 28, 1963, shared by the US National Archives.

From the US National Archives’ Channel, marches convening at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. in August of 1963, during the March on Washington. One of largest political rallies for human rights in American history, it called for the civil and economic rights of African Americans and included Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. This past August commemorated the March’s 50th Anniversary.

President Bill Clinton making a name rubbing on the Vietnam Memorial, November 1993, shared by user comms.

From user comms: “President Bill Clinton and Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund founder Jan C. Scruggs make a name rubbing on The Wall on Memorial Day.”

You can explore Google’s Street View Gallery here, and see what kinds of great overlays you can create and share on Historypin with your own personal collections. Happy pinning!

Guest Post: Year of the Bay contributor Michael Rettie on Stumbling Across a Treasure Trove of Photographs

We love to hear fun stories about the ways users collect content for our projects, and this week we are pleased to introduce a guest post by Bay Area local Michael Rettie, a Year of the Bay contributor. Michael is from Alameda, right on the San Francisco Bay, and here shares the stories behind his wonderful photo finds.

The collective basements and attics of the Bay Area should be declared the Official Annex of the California Historical Society. What a great idea to smoke all these treasures out into public view with the recent Year of the Bay exhibit. In my case it doesn’t take too much smoke, as I’m always ready to corner a potential viewer.

Being cursed with an inability to pass up any garage sale or used book store, with a large basement and a very tolerant wife I now find myself in possession of thousands of old photographs and nearly as many stories to go with them.

Holmes Bookstore in Oakland was a favorite haunt and turned up some wonderful sepia maritime prints that were sold on separate sheets from someone’s scrapbook. Close examination of one of them shows a “1916” pennant at the masthead of one sailboat with a Corinthian Yacht Club burgee flying alongside, so there is our date.

Corinthian Burgee somewhere in San Francisco Bay, 1916.

Detail of the "1916" flag on the Corinthian burgee.

Another one portrays Italian fishing boats, feluccas, at Fisherman’s Wharf c1916. These boats predate the Montereys that appeared a few years later; you can clearly see the family resemblance.

Feluccas at Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, c1916.

Monterey boats, c1920.

And can anyone identify the Navy cruiser from the scrapbook?

A mystery cruiser. Can anyone help tell me more about it?

On another occasion, an interrupted grocery shopping excursion in the early ‘90s found me at a garage sale near my home in Alameda, where I left five dollars lighter in my wallet but gained thousands of small old prints and negatives. Here was a portion of a collection that should have ended up at the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley, and will, but had somehow been overlooked. I discovered that the photographer was Lewis Clark, a noted mountaineer, electrical engineer at Pacific Telephone, and later President of the Sierra Club.

Lewis Clark on Kearsarge Pass, 1932.

Commuting to the city by ferry offered a regular opportunity for Clark to use his 6x9cm Voigtlander camera; his skill at composition and exposure left a wonderful record of a pace most of us envy today. My favorite commute shot has to be the NWP Ferry Santa Rosa at the Ferry Building with the undecorated Telegraph Hill in the background and Mt Tamalpais in the distance. Blow it up some more and the Delta King river steamer appears.

NWP Ferry Santa Rosa at the Ferry Building in San Francisco, c1927-1933.

Ebay too can be an evil influence. Just save a search like “NAS Alameda” and you will eventually turn up something as interesting as the group photo with the first plane to be rebuilt at the Naval Air Station in 1941. Then mention this photo to a local architect/historian like Dick Rutter and he will produce a shot of the last plane to be finished in 1996.

First Plane Rebuilt at NAS Alameda, 1941. (click for larger view)

Last plane rebuilt at NAS Alameda, 1996. (click for larger view)

My overall favorite remains the image of the Dipsea Trail hiker looking south to the Golden Gate in 1930. The notes in the margin of the negative revealed the coded date, the location, and also the name of the hiker, S. Estabrook.  Turns out my fishing buddy is an Estabrook so I printed a copy and stuck it in an envelope to Kent. Next evening the phone call comes. “That’s my Dad,” he says.  An amazing gift for the both of us.

The Golden Gate from the Dipsea Trail, 1930.

What a great opportunity to exhibit our treasures this project has become. And I don’t have to endure any in-person eye-rolling. Thank you California Historical Society, Historypin, and all the sponsors and contributors!

Michael Rettie, Alameda, CA.


View Michael’s Channel with all these wonderful photos here.

Remember how we used to watch … Funhouse?


It’s outraaaaaageous!
Fun house, a whole lot of fun, prizes to be won, It’s the real crazy show where anything goes. Fun house, it’s a quiz, it’s a race, a real wacky place, Use your body and your brain if you wanna play the game!

Anyone remember Fun House? The 80s TV show featuring the badly-coiffed Pat Sharp and those cheerleading twins Martina and Melanie? Grabbing tags for prizes, the Fun Kart Grand Prix and massive amounts of Gunge? No? Just us?

Pat Sharp, has become the latest celebrity to start pinning on Historypin, adding some of photos of his cult show to the ‘Remember How We Used To‘ project.

This is  your chance to reminisce over those that amazing hair or the studio in Glasgow any child born around 1980 would have given their etch-a-sketch to visit.

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

Other famous pinners include HRH the Duke of Cambridge (aka Prince William), Martin Luther King III, Tony Robinson and Clare Balding.

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 jcc.communitymap@gmail.com.

Charlotte Goodhart

Snap Shots of Europe from the 1890s

For the past few months St John’s College Library, Cambridge has been busy pinning a great collection of photos taken by the Victorian polymath Samuel Butler. Butler lived in South England but travelled extensively through Europe, especially Italy. His photographs capture many everyday scenes in the 1880s and 1890s as well as the tourist destinations that we still flock to today including Pompeii, the Eiffel Tower and the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Take a look at St John’s College Library’s Channel or their site with Historypin embed to follow Butler on his journeys from England through Europe and over the Pyrenees to Italy.

Butler called his photographs ‘snap-shots’, and they really did capture many scenes in that precise moment, informal and unposed. Coffee carts, orange stalls and women washing clothes all figure largely in his work.

People and animals figured largely in his work, from man shaving a poodle in Naples to sheep on a steamboat. Have a look at these fun Collections of People at Work and Animals to see more.

You can find out more about the project to digitise Samuel Butler’s photographs here. And if you want to find our more about Butler, his travels through Italy and hear from someone who followed in his footsteps in 2012, armed with his diary and photos and recording her own, head down to the Butler Day Conference on 12th January at St John’s College, Cambridge.

Some ‘Remember When’ Friday Favourites

This week, we launched our exciting new project ‘Remember When We Used To,’ an archive of memories showing how energy has transformed our lives. Below are just a few ‘Remember How’ memories that have been shared with us:


Card Catalog Inside the Covington Library, 1980.

Do you remember how we used to look for books with a card catalogue? This photo of a student inside the Covington Library in Kentucky, pinned by the Kenton County Public Library, demonstrates the concentration required to search for books manually before computers became common search tools. I especially like the fun detective drawing helping kids to find books by author and title.

Finding books used to be a more engaging process; the searching was certainly an event in itself. I remember our teacher taking us to our school library and showing us how to search for books in the card catalogue, and making up games to see who could search for the right book the fastest. There was also always that one trouble-maker in the class who would mix up all of the cards in the drawers, making it a nightmare for the poor librarian to reorganise.

With computers as commonplace search tools, studying in the library or browsing for books in a bookstore is now less about the work involved in searching and more about the varied results one can get in a short amount of time.

Do you remember those pesky card catalogues? Share your memories with us here!


Cambridge United vs. Burton Playoffs, May 2008.

User Richard Nurse recently shared his favourite celebratory moment, of a pitch-invasion moment at Abbey Stadium, Redditch, UK in 2008. Here he captures the moment after his team, Cambridge United, beat Burton Albion in the semi-finals to get to Wembley Stadium in the Conference Play-Off Finals. It’s a great shot that captures a cherished personal memory.

For my fellow sports fans out there, you will know that some of the best celebratory moments are the ones when your home team celebrates a crucial win; whether its a family football game or professional match, whether player or spectator, the pride in bringing home a victory is something that can stick with you for a long time.

Did your home team ever grab a win after trailing? Have you or someone you know score the winning point? Share them with us and let us know how you celebrated afterwards.


Saturday Night Fever, June 1978.

Now technically this photo is not of people playing, but I believe dancing can definitely fall under this category. User AndyT shared this great photo memory of a campus dance demo at the University of York in 1978. As with many universities today, York had a special day when people were encouraged to visit the campus. In June 1978 the attractions on offer included what AndyT describes as “very cool” students showing off the latest dance moves, seen here outside Central Hall. Anyone familiar with the disco dances of the 1970’s will know that the style above was best-demonstrated by this guy:

John Travolta on the Saturday Night Fever (1977) film poster.

Everyone wanted Travolta’s cool dance moves, so it’s no wonder young people all over the world took them up on their school campuses. My own university open-day didn’t feature disco, but there were many other ‘current’ styles on offer like hip-hop; changing dance-styles are a reflection of the times, and is also one of those things that can immediately trigger memories (some not so great) of how we used to ‘play.’

If you have some dance-filled university memories, or evidence of some now-dated moves, share them with us here.

We would love to see your personal memories of how we used to work, play, watch and listen, keep warm, celebrate. Visit the project page here.