Take a look at a current map of your neighborhood and you’ll see what you already know. You’ll see what exists down the street now. But if you want to know what was there in the past, you’ll need Historypin. The interactive map gives insight into the fabric of a neighborhood, reconstructing it from history. weaving historic photos and stories into the current infrastructure of cities to create cultural patches across the world makes this website one of a kind.
Type in your address and you’ll see the pizza shop was once a pharmacy, the church parking lot was once a small woodsy park and photos of the people who resided in your building 50 years ago. Jon Voss, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Historypin says the site is about creating an intergenerational dialogue by starting connections across cultures and generations. The individual efforts result in a bigger picture affecting how we all relate to one another.
The user-generated site officially launched last summer and continues to gain momentum from active communities including World War I and II buffs, historical preservation societies, and academic groups. In New York City alone, the grid is peppered with ancient photos from the City of New York Museum, New York Public Library and the Brooklyn Museum. In San Francisco, pins include old street signs and highway billboards, posted by a student at Standford. The pictures were part of a survey on neighborhood beautification by the city’s urban planning department.
Visually integrating current maps with historical photos allows people to see where they’re from and where they live. It’s a universal curiosity to know what was there before us that brings together different communities. “The idea is that people will use Historypin to put their discoveries up as opposed to it being lost again over time,” says Jon.
Using Historypin isn’t only about seeing what wasn’t there before. When disasters occur, people use the map to build a visual layout of the damage left in it’s place. After the extensive earthquake of 2011 that hit Christchurch, Canterbury in New Zealand, photos showed the reconstruction of a community left in shambles.
Another way to make the most of Historypin is through their idea of Repeats. You can layer photos taken throughout time of the same location to combine them. Jon has uploaded photos of his father and himself, both at the iconic Jefferson Memorial in Washington D.C., only 60 years apart. By adding his photos to the location, he can use the Repeat function to make the photos transparent, allowing the details of both to merge into one image, the modern equivalent of time traveling. In the end, this popular feature is the very essence of the site: sharing photos both personal and public to build a connection to history, reconstructing our place in time.