The next time you walk around Emory University’s campus, imagine what its quad or the Emory Village retail district would have looked like 75 years ago. Visualizing those historic days is now easier since Emory’s Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Books Library (MARBL) placed some of its archival photos of the campus and student life on Historypin.org, an online site for people to share historical photos and videos and collaborate with others. Since MARBL joined the site last November, its page has had more than 1,000 hits on its photos.
Historypin uses Google Maps to pin each historical photo to its location on a present day map. Site visitors can look at a map of the Emory campus and click on historic photos of locations all over campus from 1840 to the present. MARBL outreach archivist and research library fellow Matthew Strandmark explained that for MARBL, Historypin is a nontraditional social media platform to share the photographs in the Emory University Archives. Emory alumni are encouraged to pin their own photos of campus to MARBL’s Historypin page, he says.
“We have been seeing a lot more public libraries, museums and academic institutions using Historypin, which is great because more history is being shared in ways that wouldn't have been possible otherwise,” Strandmark said. “We can post photos of Emory alumni at a sporting event and then alumni can comment and say who was in the photo, and they can share it too. This is the whole idea of the project, to build a collective history.”
The Google Maps functionality not only gives visitors directions to the photo locations they want to see on the mobile app but also uses Google Maps Street View to line up historic photos with their modern locations. Viewers can overlay the historical photos in relation to where they were taken today.
MARBL has received a lot of activity on Historypin since it joined four months ago. By mid-March, MARBL had already uploaded 46 photographs and garnered 1,151 profile views. Strandmark noted that institutions with profiles on Historypin for years have had around 4,000 profile views; in comparison, MARBL’s profile has gained popularity much more quickly than expected.
Strandmark also created a tour using MARBL’s historical photos of the quad. “It will walk you through exactly how to get to each place and where to line up your phone so you can see exactly where the image was,” Strandmark said. “There have been a lot of hits on the tour feature.”
Strandmark and MARBL research fellow Anne Donlon are working on creating Emory’s own mobile application that will generate walking tours of campus from the archive’s historical photos. The app will employ the same technology used in the Battle of Atlanta website and application, an open web tour of historical Civil War sites in Atlanta created by Emory’s Center for Digital Scholarship. Users will be able to scroll through the photos and watch videos of people speaking about the sites depicted in the photos. Strandmark said the historical walking tour app is expected to launch in fall 2015.
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