We recently highlighted The Museum of London's efforts to create an augmented reality iPhone app from a set of geotagged images in their collection. With the images plotted on a Google Map, history comes alive as the metadata for each image tells a story when old images are superimposed on the user's location.
Now comes word of a much larger project in the same exciting vein: History Pin, a partnership between Google and We Are What We Do, hopes to become the largest user-generated archive of the world's historical images and stories.
The website serves as a digitized, interactive visual time-machine. Users upload their own photos along with the stories behind them. The photos are then plotted to an interactive map and layered onto current street view scenes, providing geo-located portals to the past.
Watch a fascinating overview of the project here:
How does such an ambitious project come into being? With a dream. The History Pin website boils down the story this way:
We Are What We Do's big new campaign aims to get people from different generations to spend more time together. It became obvious that old photos are a great way of gathering people together and getting them chatting.
We wanted people to dig out, scan, upload and pin their photos and stories to a map of the world for everyone to see. So we decided to call Google and ask if they'd help. They had a map all ready for us to use and happened to have photographed most of the world...which was handy.
So, should we regard this as just technology for technology sake, "because they can?" Not if you care about statistics clearly illustrating that inter-generational communication (which We Are What We Do cares so much about) is rapidly on the decline.
People of different age groups spend a lot less time together than they used to. In Britain, only 10% of elderly people live with their children, compared to 40% just 50 years ago. In an age where 90% of teenager communication is digital, the trend may only lead to different age groups living in completely different social worlds. A study from the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project regarding Generational Differences In Online Activities highlights stark disparities in how different age groups are interacting with technology today.
A project like History Pin has something for everyone and could serve to bridge those gaps. We believe that the vast visual resources of libraries and archives could contribute greatly to this type of endeavor and serve as a driving factor behind widespread adoption of it as well.
Everyone has old photos, but is there a larger payoff for contribution besides a sense of community and belonging? It remains to be seen - but with Google behind it, History Pin could be the Flickr of 2011.
Regardless, we have to admit that with crowdsourcing, resource sharing, social networking, mobile applications and Learning 2.0 all in one product, it doesn't get any more "New Media" than that!
Going forward, old photographs might stop gathering dust and could begin gathering interaction, conversations and new relationships instead.
An in-depth presentation of how to use History Pin can is presented here: