Historypin: vintage media overlaid on current Google Maps images

 Images Historypin-March-Of-The-100-Bagpipers-3
Historypin is an app and site that overlays vintage photos, audio, and video onto current Google Maps Street View images. For example, above is the March of the 100 Bagpipers on a Nova Scotia road in 1955, and today. Below, George VI's 1937 coronation in London. Smithsonian interviewed Nick Stanhope, CEO of We Are What We Do, creators of Historypin:
 Images Historypin-George-Vi's-Coronation-4 How do you see it being a useful tool?

Our organization as a whole spends a lot of time thinking and talking about this concept of social capital—the associations, networks and trust that define strong communities. What Robert Putnam has done, and other sociologists like him, is trace the disintegration of this social capital. I think it is a huge trend, and not something that Historypin can solve by any stretch of the imagination. But we think that by boosting the interest in local heritage and by making it exciting and relevant to people, by starting conversations—across garden fences, families, different generations and cultural groups—about heritage, we can play a role.

We talk a lot about there being a difference between “bonding” social capital and “bridging” social capital—bonding being between similar social, economic or cultural groups and bridging being across different groups. Something like Facebook is great for the social capital between people that know each other and have a connection, but it doesn’t make links beyond that. We have a very long way to go, but the aim of Historypin is to start conversations about something that is shared between people who didn’t necessarily think that they had something in common.

"Q and A with Nick Stanhope, Creator of Historypin"


  1. I thought Bing did this already with their streetside photos and photosynth overlays? While the focus on history is quite interesting, I thought Microsoft had quite the set of patents on the basic tech.

    1. Well there is a quarry there, but the historical photo doesn’t line up because of the way the Streetview image is stretched rather than because of mining.

  2. I created a similar site for my rephotography of Tampa, Florida http://www.TampaChanging.com
    One aspect of my site, that really adds to the photos is the ability to fade back and forth between the modern & historic images.  This way you can easily see what the scene used to look like and what it currently looks like.  Hopefully History Pin will add a feature like this as well.  

  3. The large image you used in this post relates to the opening of the Canso Causeway. This causeway connects the island of Cape Breton to mainland Nova Scotia, and was opened August 13, 1955. The causeway is 1.4 km long, and was made using nearly 11 million tonnes of rock. Before the causeway, rail and car ferries took people and goods between the mainland and Cape Breton. The cost of the project was paid by a toll for those entering Cape Breton from 1955 to the mid 1990s. 

  4. I have postcards from London around 1890 – 1910 that I scanned and uploaded to the Internet Archive. I went on Google Street View to try to find the exact location each photo was taken from, and included the GPS coordinates in the comments. Some were easy to find, some not so easy (and  usually involved a mini history lesson), and some I couldn’t find at all.

    Sadly, Historypin doesn’t make the process any easier. It looks like it’s still up to you to find the location and get the perspective correct, but if you can, then it’s at least one better than stare-and-compare on Street View!

    Edit: Just tried it. No perspective correction.

  5. There’s a stand-alone viewer near the Berlin Wall which lets you look at the scene through history.  I can’t find the reference but I saw a piece on it online yesterday.  The device itself looks like one of those coin-operated binoculars you sometimes see at scenic places but it has a library of photos of the same scene seen at different times, the overlay of history as you look through the device.

  6. Wow! I just did a double take when I saw the picture of bagpipers crossing the Canso Causeway, as it is right down the road from me.

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