Mapping Los Angeles’ Transportation Legacy: Metro Library & Archive Brings History Alive As A Global Launch Partner For Historypin

This month, we’re proud to announce our role as a Global Launch Partner in Historypin — a new multi-platform technology that strives to share photographs from around the world and the stories behind them — in bringing together people and their shared history.

When we first learned of Historypin exactly one year ago, we wrote about its potential for fostering intergenerational communication, crowdsourcing local history and leveraging new applications of augmented reality (like this Museum of London app or the “Dear Photograph” Tumblr site).

Historypin works like a interactive photo collection, where people and institutions upload images which can then be sorted geographically as well as chronologically.

This 90-second overview explains the concept:

Now that Historypin has entered into a partnership with Google, it has the full force of the tech giant behind it.

Google leverages its incredible mapping tools and “street view” imagery — so transit agencies who have been taking pictures of streets for decades are a natural fit for a project like this.

Earlier this year, Historypin took note of our extensive image archive and invited us to participate in their project.

Never ones to shy away from telling the fascinating stories behind the history of transit and transportation in Los Angeles, we began working with Historypin to upload 300 photos from our collection as well as important data pertaining to them.

In addition to noting what a photo is about and when it was taken, its “metadata” includes geocoding that plots it on a map, such as this image of a Pacific Electric streetcar rolling past USC on September 27, 1953.

You can click on this image to either view it on a map, or see copyright and photo information which includes the photographer, repository, and link to Flickr collection for more photos like it that you may not see on a map.

(Click to display Historypin map and other information)

You can search our collection by topic or year, see our images on a map, or search for Los Angeles with or without a more specific subject or time period, and see items from our photo collections alongside those of Los Angeles Public Library, Glendale Public Library, and other institutions’ rarely-seen images.

Discussions are underway within the LA as Subject membership as to whether the network of more than 230 historical and cultural institutions across Southern California want to pool some of their collections to use Historypin as one type of online exhibit space for visual resources.

Historypin has the potential to bring people together across different nations, cultural groups, around topics of mutual interest, or even within families who live in different locations — or across generations.

Meanwhile, other institutions are already finding interesting uses for Historypin.

The Brooklyn Museum is seizing the opportunity to crowdsource accurate information for photographs which need more information.

According to the New York Times, the public has helped map 97 of 250 images uploaded in the first 17 days of this project, and the Museum plans to upload another 100 new images every week in hopes that they, too, will be further identified and mapped.

Fortunately for us, most of our photo collection retains robust data about when and where images were taken.

However, we do receive feedback regarding our online Flickr collection which helps both us and scholars who refer to our historic photographs.

While our Flickr photo collection has been accessed over 1.3 million times in less than three years, we see Historypin as yet one more way to engage our users and potential users with the fascinating story of Los Angeles transit and transportation stretching back more than a century.

This month, Historypin announced even more excited developments than its official global launch.

The Android mobile phone app is out, with positive reviews from users.

Historypin already has partnerships with over 100 museums and libraries with which to build its archive, and is identifying and pursuing potential collaboration with additional archives as well as universities and other organizations to roll out local projects and educational programs around the world.

Other new features released this month are highlighted here (no audio, except for the highlighted audio file beginning at 0:36):

And if there’s any doubt about the viability or popularity of sharing images online alongside their stories and spatial representation compared to today, we found widespread news coverage and enthusiastic reviews in major newspapers around the country (Slate calls it “a hot web time machine”), as well as in the SpanishItalian, Czech, Chinese media.

Historypin’s YouTube channel contains other videos, including the story behind Historypin (CEO Nick Stanhope was looking at old photos with his grandmother), along with speeches from Stanford and Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig who founded the Center For Internet And Society, as well as Martin Luther King III earlier this month at the U.S. launch event in New York City.

We are looking forward to seeing how Historypin will evolve, confident that this is just the beginning of providing historical information and context to an increasing number of people in engaging and exciting ways.