Home Mash Letter to the Past

Mash Letter to the Past

It is intriguing indeed to witness the Technology of the Future giving us a window on the past. We’ve discovered new ancestors, both biologically and culturally, using lidar, GPS and online mapping. Those discoveries, however, have been made by professionals. Most of us want to interact with history not to make large scale discoveries that change humankind’s understanding, but personal ones, that change ours.

To that end, here is a survey of mash-ups that unite mapping, photos, street views, video and documentary photographs from ages past. Historypin, Then and Now, There and Then and SepiaTown all give the individual the opportunity to add depth of field to the mind’s eye.


Historypin is a self-building site where users upload and “pin” their historical photos to maps with geo-tags. They accompany their photos with their own words. The emphasis is on telling using this new media to create history. It gives a sense, using Google Maps and Google Street View, of how a location has changed. Historypin is a part of We Are What We Do’s Generations campaign, to keep different generations in dialogue.

Then and Now

Then and Now
matches Flickr Commons photos with map locations and renders them with Google Street View. This is a project by Paul Hagon, the Canberra-based Senior Web Designer at the National Library of Australia. In addition to Australia, there are also New Zealand and New York versions.

There and Then

There and Now is a Google Maps/YouTube video mash-up. It derives extra value from the division of locations into historical eras, from pre-1900 to post-2000. Watch a video of a horse-drawn streetcar turning a corner in Chicago in 1897 overlaid onto the Street View of that same corner. So. Very. Cool. The creator, Keir Clarke, contributes to the (unofficial) blog, Google Maps Mania.


SepiaTown is another user-built site. Registered users map their own historical photographs in a shared environment. Plans have been announced to add film and audio. Given that the site can’t guarantee the provenance of the photos, users have to “electronically affirm that the image is either owned by them or free from restriction.”

Astrolabe by Paul K

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