Rephotography, Historical Archives, and Historypin

Rephotography, Historical Archives, and Historypin

The UF Digital Collections include many, many rich collections, including the University Archives Photograph Collection. One of the more exciting recent uses of the collection has been in rephotography like that done by Pam Marlin:

While evocative and powerful, rephotography isn’t always easy or fast in  terms of time for setup to get the correct angle for a new photo. has an app that makes this process simpler. There are probably many apps and tools for rephotography, but I’m most familiar with Historypin because images from the University Archives Photograph Collection in the UF Digital Collections have been loaded there. This page shows many of the loaded images:

Historypin allows users to see the images alone, the images on a map,  the images in street view when available, and see stories/tours with the images.

The street view overlay with historical images is easy to do using Historypin’s app and the results are rather striking examples of rephotography like this:

Historypin’s interface presents a very useful model for developing mobile tours that blend current locations with historical photographs. In doing so, it makes for a more interesting tool and it’s more theoretically and practically interesting. How do ease of access and viewability of historic and contemporary imagery placed together and seen while in a real-world space impact memorability and navigability of spaces? How do the historic and current photos inform and complicate the real-world spatial usage, comprehension, and emotional impact/affect?

In addition to these already rich concerns that Historypin, as a tool, helps to inform, I’m most interested in how they’re developing stories and tours. In working with digital collections and working in the digital humanities, my core concerns center around using technologies to support, inform, and expand humanities practice. One major area is that of usability/navigability and so metaphors and interfaces for online spatial and information navigation like stories and tours are extremely important.

With the UF Digital Collections having hundreds of collections and millions of pages, how can smaller curated approaches entice and introduce users in a less overwhelming and more productive manner that leads users to a richer experience with each item and to more content as well. Basically, I’m interested in curation and other models as one of the necessary responses to Gregory Crane’s foundational question for the digital humanities: “What Do You Do with a Million Books?”

I’m interested in curated and structure responses to this question, including answers through developing supports for ways of seeing and contextualizing as with: online exhibits (providing expanded information for individual items, connections among items, and placing materials in a specific, curated context), collateral materials that support collections (landing pages explaining collections, teaching guides that show how to use materials and provide background, annotated bibliographies, thesauri, indices, lists of terms, introductory essays to collections, authors, items, illustrators, etc.), and similar materials as well as ways of structuring these materials together to aid users without being restrictive. In thinking about information and online spatial navigation concerns, virtual tours and mobile apps can be very informative.

I’m hoping that the prior versions of the UF Virtual Tours (like this one) can eventually be migrated into something like Historypin to contextualize the spaces and information as well as the navigation and use of the space/information. As more and richer online/mobile tours develop, their metaphors and interfaces for touring and stories are informative for concerns related to digital collections and the digital humanities in general.

For now, this is all developing and readily available for experimentation. Check out these historical images in Historypin, maybe add your own images or more images from the UF Digital Collections, and maybe develop a tour of your own:

NITLE also has a recent posting on “Mapping Stories for Student Learning” with additional resources and a very thoughtful review of the differences and productive comparisons of digital storytelling and digital curation.