Put a Pin in It! National Archives Joins Historypin

Have you ever looked at an historic storefront flanked by modern office buildings and wondered what the streetscape might have looked like back when that first building was constructed? If so, the National Archives’ new partnership with Historypin may be right up your alley! Historypin, a project of the British non-profit We Are What We Do™, seeks to build connections between multiple generations through an appreciation of the history of their shared communities. The site enables users to overlay (or “pin”) historic images, videos and audio recordings onto the sights of today, both online at Historypin.com and on the Historypin mobile app (available in the App Store and the Android Market). This new media mashup, which runs on Google maps, encourages visitors to add their own memories to the pinned records, highlighting the personal connection to changing landscapes.

We’re pleased to be able to coordinate our Historypin launch with the 2011 National Council for the Social Studies Annual Conference, being held December 2-4 in Washington, DC. The Archives is inviting thousands of educators in town for the conference to witness the capital city’s history right before their eyes using the Historypin mobile app on their iPhones, Android-powered phones, or tablets.
Those eager to explore historic DC with Historypin on their smartphones or tablets will be able to see, amongst other stops: the nation’s first telegraph office at 7th and F street, Ford’s Theater in Lincoln’s time on 10th Street, and Civil War photographer Matthew Brady’s studio on Pennsylvania Avenue in Northwest DC.

National Archives Building in DC, pinned to the map via Historypin

Conference attendees – or anyone interested in glimpsing DC’s past – can follow a suggested route from the Walter E. Washington Convention Center toward the National Archives building and National Mall area. As participants stroll down the main corridor and sidestreets of 7th Street NW, the Historypin app will use their GPS location to suggest images along the route where they can stop and view historic photographs and documents from the past, juxtaposed with the modern scenery before them. Visitors viewing the full online site can also take a more linear virtual tour of the “Old Downtown,” or Penn Quarter neighborhood, of the city , a feature that is currently under construction for the mobile app as well.

In addition to these glimpses of DC’s past, our launch focuses on selections from Mathew Brady’s Civil War photographs and images from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Documerica project of the 1970s, in which photographers recorded the state of the environment and lives of everyday people in communities around the country. Over the next few months, we will continue to pin historic content from our holdings and hope that this new way of looking at history inspires others to share their stories as well.

Visit the National Archives on Historypin at http://www.historypin.com/profile/view/USNatArchives/

For more information on the National Council for the Social Studies Annual Conference, visit http://www.socialstudies.org. Adventuresome conference attendees will also be invited to try their hand at mobile gaming in the National Archives Civil War SCVNGR trek.

2 thoughts on “Put a Pin in It! National Archives Joins Historypin

  1. Cool. How would photos in textual collections (it does happen) make it to the pin? Please take a look at the Text Message blog post about Washington in 1950 about photos in a textual series.

    1. Hi Marie,
      It looks like the photos from the Old Georgetown Act Numbered Files would be a great fit for Historypin! As long as the images are in the public domain and have item-level entries in the online catalog (ARC or OPA) it doesn’t matter what type of collections they’re coming from. We’re currently working on putting together a work plan so that more National Archives offices can get involved with Historypin, so send us a message at socialmedia [at] nara.gov if you’d be interested in participating!


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