“Historypin was created to help people to come together from across different generations, cultures and places, around the history of their families and neighbourhoods, improving personal relations and building stronger communities.”
Historypin, created by the non-profit We Are What We Do in collaboration with Google, provides a platform for sharing and annotating images, audio, and video content. Initially the site was loaded with content shared by more than 100 libraries, archives, and museums. Content has now grown to more than 350,000 contributions from individuals and institutions. The exact (and ever-changing) count is displayed on the home page.
Content can be pinned to maps, allowing visitors to view a rich array of diverse images of their community. Content can be grouped into collections or “tours.” Anyone can add stories or comments to the pinned content. The result is an unusual, compelling mix of curation and crowdsourcing. Looking at content for my own home area, Northern New Mexico, I can see pins from individuals, museums, and universities. It is wonderful to explore, and inspires me to get busy adding some older photos of my own.
How much can one rely on crowdsourced information? That’s going to be a question of increasing importance. In some respects, though, even inaccurate comments or fictitious stories tell us something about the people who shared them, and about what matters to those people. In Historypin, users can report inaccurate or inappropriate content, allowing the community to regulate itself. I would expect that there are conflicts similar to those that arise in Wikipedia related to different interpretations – or in this case different recollections. Historypin does moderate content, but one wonders to what degree that’s possible with content being added quickly.
Among the projects and collections are several related to art. One that’s featured now is Putting Art on the Map, from the Imperial War Museums. Here’s their intro to the project: “From John Singer Sargent to Paul Nash, some amazing artists captured scenes of the First World War. Explore these evocative artworks from the Imperial War Museums, help us improve their locations and enrich them with your comments and stories. Or you can curate the artworks into your own Collections or Tour.” The IWM presents images and information via this project, but it is also looking for help solving “mysteries,” attempting to define the location of an image int he collection, or identify the subject of a portrait.
I can see lots of potential applications for my Library and Archives, rich in visual material and fieldwork.
The site is easy to navigate, intuitive and comfortable to use. Terms and conditions and procedures are clearly laid out (see the FAQ page to get a good overview). Historypin has won a Webby Award for the best Charitable Organization/Not-for-profit website. This one is well worth a little exploration.