Historypin at the Opening of Curating the Bay in San Francisco

Visitors learning about Historypin at our California Historical Society pinning station.

We are pleased to report that this week, our joint crowdsourcing project with Stanford University, Year of the Bay, became a part of an exciting new museum exhibition in San Francisco. The exhibit, called Curating the Bay: Crowdsourcing a New Environmental History, is a collaboration with the California Historical Society (CHS) to open their collections to the public in a new and interactive way.

Museums and archives alike always aspire to having a completed history of a certain topic, and in Curating the Bay the CHS takes a leap into uncharted territory by asking visitors to fill in the blanks rather than presenting them with a finished narrative. Many of the photographs, paintings, and documents in their collections still contain historical mysteries, and the exhibition invites the public to help solve them as well as to contribute their own stories and materials.

This is where Historypin comes in.  Excitingly, we have set up a pinning station within the CHS’s exhibition, so visitors can scan and add their materials into the Year of the Bay project while they are there. And since the project is at yearofthebay.org, visitors not only from the Bay Area but from all over the world can contribute to the history of San Francisco Bay.

California Historical Society docents learning about Historypin at our pinning station

Up close at our pinning station.

A huge number of people came out in support of the exhibit during its opening this past Sunday, April 7. With music, food, drinks, and good conversation, many visitors expressed excitement at the prospect of contributing to history.

Lots of visitors arriving to the evening opening

One of my favorite parts of the exhibition is a touchscreen display of the Year of the Bay website that we created just for exhibits (pictured below).

A close-up of the custom-made interface of our Year of the Bay touchscreen.

And with great visual flair, the CHS has surrounded the touchscreen display with an analog version of the map of the Bay Area directly behind the touchscreen, complete with pins! As the exhibition continues, they will add visitor contributions to the wall along with their own “pins.” Fantastic!

The wall of San Francisco Bay pins that will be added with visitor contributions during the course of the exhibition.

Visitors exploring the wall and touchscreen during the opening.

With this exhibition and the outreach activities surrounding it, we hope to help create a richer and more diverse history of the San Francisco Bay. Since the opening, we have already received many wonderful contributions to yearofthebay.org from all over the world. If you are in the Bay Area from now until August 25th, come on down to the exhibition and try your hand at solving some historical mysteries, or follow along online as we tweet about them weekly.

One of the many mystery items in our Curating the Bay exhibit. Can you help us learn more about it?

And finally, videos and pictures are sometimes worth more than words, so here is a short video Historypin has made to explain our exciting new Year of the Bay project. Take a look!

Historypin on touch screens!

Embed of the Butler Project Channel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New exhibition exploring ‘The Participatory Museum’ concept

An innovative new exhibition opens at Europe House today, featuring photographs from The Imperial Museums with annotations giving a wealth of information about each image, gathered by a series of crowdsourcing events organised by Historypin.

You can see a preview of the images here.

It runs from 3rd Dec to 7th Dec at Europe House, 32 Smith Square, London, SW1P 3EU. Open from 10am-6pm.

The photographs are from the Q Series, a remarkable collection of 120,000 images showing life during the First World War, on land, at sea, in the air and at home.

The collection includes material from a wide range of sources, including the Ministry of Information, War Office and Foreign Office, newspaper photography from outlets such as the Daily Mirror and Daily Mail as well as images illustrating the war efforts of France, Germany, Italy and the USA.

Beyond the original captions associated with each image, much of the contextual data and narrative around this collection hasn’t been previously gathered or recorded.

Over the summer of 2012, the Historypin teamed up with the Imperial War Museum to start to harness the capacity and knowledge of the crowd to gather this information. Through a series of events, drawing on the knowledge and enthusiasm of many different people, from school students, to military experts, to archivists and curators, we have uncovered a few of the mysteries of the Q Series. It was incredibly humbling to see the amount of knowledge, passion and desire to help that filled the room during these sessions.

Adding data to First World War Photos

You can see all the photographs discussed on the Imperial War Museums Channel, many of which have had their data improved or their location identified following these enlightening sessions.

The findings from the sessions have been used to annotate the photographs to create fascinating layered images showing a wealth of information. This exhibition provides a glimpse of how participation can bring collections to life and open up new understanding, through comments and annotations.

The exhibition runs until Friday at Europe House, 32 Smith Square. London, SW1P 3EU.

Tonight, Chief Execs Nick Stanhope of Historypin and Nick Poole of the Collections Trust will be opening the exhibition and speaking about how cultural institutions are involving their communities more as collaborators and participants.

Last summer, in their article on ‘The Participatory Museum‘ Nick and Nick discussed ideas around how ‘end-users’ can become much more involved with the whole duration of museum projects. They painted the powerful potential this could have for engaging audiences, connecting online and offline worlds and putting museums at the heart of communities.

Through Historypin’s work, we’ve seen loads of great instances of conversations about historical content – be it online among history geeks on forum threads, museum tagging games or amongst grandpas having a pint in the pub.

Our aim is to use technology to capture the best from all these worlds and create a tool that works for both analog and digital crowd-sourcing communities, translating conversations into useful structures to be explored and augmented by others. Through this innovative approach, we hope more people will be inspired to come together around personal, local and cultural collections. So keep an eye out as we continue to delve deeper into participatory collections.




Hitting the Streets with the SFMTA Photo Archives

This past weekend, I had the great pleasure of tagging along with Heather Moran of the SFMTA Photo Archives, who had been invited to join Jessica Justino at the Cole Valley Fair in San Francisco. Jessica has been curating collections of historical photos at the fair for ten years, and this year, the Municipal Transit Authority’s (aka MUNI) Centennial, she was highlighting the history of transit in the neighborhood.  Heather was showcasing some of the “Treasures from the Muni Archives”, which document not only public transit history, but also many fascinating scenes of everyday life in San Francisco.

I joined for a couple hours, helping to hand out postcards, but keeping an ear out for the fascinating stories of local history that can only be gathered in the unique setting of conversation from one person to another.  As archivists and librarians know, historical photos of an area never fail to draw a good crowd full of lively reminiscing, story telling, and memory sharing.

I met one woman who was thrilled to have spotted her own house in the then/now poster that Heather had made of the neighborhood, and she had always wondered what the streets on her block looked like before there were garages.  This made for a fun quiz for onlooking kids as they examined the two pictures and said, “those ones haven’t changed at all!”  Looking a little closer, they could pick out the differences, seeing how facades had changes, overhead wires had been added or removed, and how garages were added later.

This is exactly why we’ve built Historypin–so you can help capture the photos, stories, and memories of your local area, and even coordinate with your local library, archive or historical society to help share and preserve the unique history of your community!

Historypin goes to Manchester

On Saturday Miles and I were at the awesome Manchester Histories Festival held in the impressive neo-gothic Manchester Town Hall.

We were invited by Manchester Archives Plus who have been pinning photos from the Greater Manchester County Records and films from the North West Film Archive.

We really enjoyed introducing people to Historypin and showing off the Tours and Collections put together by Alison from Manchester Archives (who you may remember interned with us last year).

But the best bit was seeing and hearing about all the different project’s going on to find, capture and explore Manchester’s histories. A few of our favourites:

52 Manchesters – Did you know that there are 52 Manchesters around the world?!  Towns, dams, mines, from Nova Scotia to Boliviar to Australia. And Chris and Liz are going to visit them all to create a photographic record of them. We’re really inspired by their feat and hope they will do some pinning along the way too. Find out more about their plans here.

Histonauts – A digital treasure hunt game that sent participants (Histonauts) running round the city with their smartphones on missions to discover Manchester’s secret histories through online clues. Brilliant way to take the Manchester Histories Festival onto the streets and into online cultural collections. Created by the Institute for Cultural Practices  and the UniverCityCulture at Manchester University. Find out more and see the leaderboard and read more here.

Streets Museum  – A fascinating project working with locals to collect photos, objects, films and oral histories from lost streets in Salford which have been demolished over the past 50years. They are working to create an online Streets Museum were Salfordians can search for and commemorate their districts and streets.

Thanks to Alison and Dave for inviting us and involving Historypin in all sorts of games and Tours during the week.

PS. A modern replica of the room we were in:

San Francisco Street Museums

Light shines through one of 14 semi-transparent "Treasures from the Muni Archive" displays in San Francisco

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee officially launched a special exhibit of photos from the San Francisco Transit Authority Archive in their unique setting February 21st. Early San Francisco street scenes can now be seen in the exhibit at the Market Street Railway Museum (MSR) and 14 bus shelters along Market Street near the Ferry Building. QR codes on the posters take you to a mobile-optimized Historypin splash page where pedestrians can see all of the posters and download the Historypin app for iPhone or Android phones.

“With nearly 30,000 photos in the SFMTA archive, we are pleased to have such a unique way to share them with residents and visitors,” said SFMTA Director of Transportation Edward D. Reiskin. “We are grateful to our long-standing partner, MSR, and one of our newest partners, Historypin, for making this exciting exhibit possible.”

And we’re honored to be a part of it! You can view the SFMTA collection on Historypin, where they’ve already posted over 100 photos.

Launch of Pinning Reading’s History Exhibition

Last night Pinning Reading’s History exhibition launched, attended by over a hundred people including local archivists, teachers, residents, community groups and Historypin Champions & volunteers from all around Reading and beyond.

Nick Stanhope, Historypin CEO, spoke about Reading’s rich history and encouraged everyone in Reading to dig out their photos and share them on Historypin.

It was a fantastic evening, with many stories shared, some new archives discovered and lots of excitement to start digging out and pinning Reading’s history.

Thanks to everyone who came, and we look forward to working with you to share Reading’s history over the coming months.The exhibition showcases some of the content collected so far and runs until January 8th. Soane space at Reading Museum
Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-4pm.

Drop-in session every Friday, 2-4pm, Soane space, Reading Museum.Meet our volunteers, and bring your stories & photos to scan and pin or contact Amanda Holland on amanda.holland@wearewhatwedo.org or 07527 931325 to arrange a time to come in and share your history.

We would also like to thank the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation for the funding that has made this project possible.