Wednesday December 7, 2011

Taking photos into the fourth dimension

Photo by @jonvoss

Photo by @jonvoss

‘A time machine in your pocket’ is how Historypin founder Nick Stanhope describes his app.

Speaking at the Powerhouse Museum last night, he showcased an exciting and ambitious project that will help individuals and institutions map photographs in time and space.

What sets Historypin apart is its simple interface to a powerful tool set. At Martin Place and on Macquarie Street, I used the Historypin app to view photos from the 1900s overlaid on the camera view of my phone. A slider varies the opacity between ‘then’ and ‘now’ bringing the old photo to life through the lens of the present. Previously you would have needed a graphics program and some time and expertise to achieve this effect. Now it is simple and instantaneous.

The app also encourages you to take a contemporary photo of the view, enriching both the Historypin collection’s scope and the photo’s metadata.

If you’re not in situ the website allows you to overlay photos onto Google Street View. On the feature list is the ability to match historic videos to paths, not just points, and to – get this – look inside buildings.

Nick called his presentation ‘fourth-dimensional mapping’ and he showed how each point on earth has a ‘column’ of history. With ‘then and now’ comparisons we can look through time.

Historypin also encourages a curatorial approach to sharing images. Photos can be grouped as collections (themes or topics) and tours (photos as narrative).

The tech behind the project is impressive but its primary aim, says Nick, is to connect communities, generations and cultures. Photos have that magic that can spark conversations. Sharing stories with his grandmother over family photos was, he said, the catalyst for Historypin.

Run by a non-profit foundation (We Are What We Do) with a community and cultural mandate, and partnered with Google and authoritative institutions like the Powerhouse and U.S. National Archives, Historypin is a new form of museum and library. With ambition. Historypin has already engaged a whole town. In 2013, their Australian Memory Project aims to engage a nation.

Ahead of that, have a play with Historypin. At Mosman Library, we’ll be experimenting with some images in the very near future.

Historypin in 90 seconds

— Posted by Bernard D, Internet Coordinator in  |  Permalink

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