Travel through the past with Historypin

Thursday, June 3, 2010 at 12:05 PM


One of the things I love about living in London is trying to read the history of the buildings from their present day appearance—looking for clues about what their purpose might once have been and how society might have looked at an earlier time.

Just the other day I was in a new part of town and I noticed, high up on one of the Victorian facades, the faded painted letters indicating the building’s former use as a bookbinder—not something we tend to see on a highstreet anymore.

Of course city landscapes, urban environments and our local streets change all the time, as does the fashion you might see on these streets or the types of cars driving down them. It’s fascinating to compare this development which is why we were thrilled when We Are What We Do, the social movement that launched the Anya Hindmarch ‘I’m Not A Plastic Bag’, approached us to collaborate on their latest creation called Historypin.

Historypin is a digital time machine that provides a new way for the world to see and share history, using Google Maps and Street View.

The site allows users to share images—of streets or buildings, cities or villages—from their personal photo albums, as well as the stories behind them.

It’s a really unique use of Street View which means pictures can be dated as well as geo-tagged and then ‘pinned’ into place on top of modern Street View photography for people to explore over time.

This VE Day parade from 1945 in Leeds, in the North of England, is really evocative for example:


It’s also a great way to get the different generations hanging out together over the family album. The project aims to start millions of new conversations between old and young, motivating older people to share their history while younger people share their digital skills.

I also love this glimpse of 1970’s fashion in London and the crazy dodo in a pram (or stroller).

It only just launched in Beta but the result so far is a fascinating snapshot of the changing face of local streets and well known landmarks, providing us all with a new perspective on historic moments.

But this is just the start! Historypin has ambitions to become the world’s largest user-generated communal archive of historic images and stories and anyone, anywhere can get involved. Pictures have been provided from individuals as well as various national archives, including such diverse contributors as Selfridges, Marks & Spencer, the Royal Albert Hall and Arsenal FC.

It looks like it’s time to grab a cup of tea, dust off the albums in the attic and take a trip down memory lane—then down Street View—with your grandma or grandpa.