History Pin

6th September 2010

Dan Slee has mentioned a couple of times recently how much he likes History Pin and, as with most things, it slowly worked its way into my brain as something to check out when I had the time.  I liked the idea, which is that you can add photos to a Google Map against a period in time, but had quite lazily thought that I didn’t really have any photos of great historic interest.

Then I remembered that time a tornado hit my house.

House struck by Birmingham Tornado

House struck by Birmingham Tornado

Ok, maybe that’s not a really important event like a VE Day Street Party or the recording of the last episode of The Bill but, it had a certain impact around my way, I took a few photos at the time and I know when it was.  All of a sudden I was a lot more interested in History Pin.

I went to the site and clicked “LogIn”.  Because History Pin uses the Google Maps API the site links in with any GMail and GoogleMail accounts you have, rather than requiring users to create another account with the site.

Once I was logged in, I had an “Upload Your Photos” hyperlink to click which lead me to the uploader.  I’d already put a set of photos on Fickr, but unfortunately, when I tried to link to those

the upload failed. So I copied the images to my own machine and uploaded a set of photos.  You can upload up to six photos at once.

For each photo you can, in fact you are compelled, to add the following information

Photo title

Date range for when it was taken


Story Title



After adding that information you then get to pin the photo on a map. I’m fortunate in that the area where the tornado hit is now on Google Streetview and so I was able to pin the photo to that, and History Pin gives you some tools to position your photo within Street View.  I didn’t have much success with that and my photos all hang across Streetview like a drunk clinging to a lamppost. I’ve seen much better examples that people have done than this so I assume this is down to my ineptitude rather than problems with the interface.

I have so far neglected to add any stories to the photos. In part this is due to laziness on my behalf. Also, as I have a series of photos I wonder how I could best add a story that covers all of the photos. What I have done is link to the Wikipedia entry for the tornado, so at least there is some context to the images.

I’m sure that plenty of other residents have their own images from the time and it would be great if more people were to add them to the site. Mine are tagged with “tornado”, “Birmingham tornado”, “Balsall Heath” and “Birmingham”, so please do the same if you upload any of yours.

Having done this, it makes me wonder what local authorities could do to make use of History Pin. Typically, we have lots of photos in collections in our libraries and museums. Birmingham has a large digitisation project going on as part of the new Library of Birmingham work. I wonder how much of that would be worth putting up. We’ve also got a host of fantastic images that form the Digital Handsworth project and maybe some of those could be put up on History Pin.

All of this would need us to be clear about the copyright of the images concerned and, of course, it requires time and effort from people at a time that the city is going to be cutting back on staff and activities.  It would be nice if we could though, eh?

5 Responses to “History Pin”

  1. Andy Mabbett Says:

    Two barely-related thoughts occur to me:

    You can also “machine tag” pictures with coordinates (note made-up values):


    and date:


    If BCC upload pictures to a third party site, then they’re only available on that one site, If the pictures are given decent metadata, including an open licence, to an open standard, then they can be picked up by any number of third-party sites; or added to any third party site by an individual user on an “as needed” basis.

    Oh dear, I think I feel another blog post coming on…

  2. Jon Bounds Says:

    It’s a little-used feature on older uploads but flickr has a “date taken” atribute for photos — so you can search for photos taken in a place, between two dates

    eg: http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=Birmingham,+uk&e=12723&d=taken–20000904

    I like History Pin, but am always conscious of using the already available data and the most used sites. An interface for flickr doing something similar would have 000s of photos already on it — and a “selfish” reason for upload (ie saving your photos, sharing with friends etc)

  3. Andy Mabbett Says:

    Done: http://pigsonthewing.org.uk/sharing-images-openly-better-than-uploading-to-single-sites/

  4. Simon Whitehouse Says:

    Hi both

    I agree with what you are saying. I had already uploaded my photos to Flickr and so it made a lot more sense to link to those from History Pin anyway. It still doesn’t get around the issue raised by Andy about using third party sites, but Flickr has a longer history and is the biggest photo sharing site around.

    Unfortunately, I was unable to connect my Flickr loaded images to History Pin. I was going to check whether they linked or made a copy if I had been successful. So, instead, I had to re-upload them. This took more time and hits the problem of me uploading to just History Pin instead of somewhere that allows the photos to be more widely shared.

    If History Pin accessed the images as I had shared them through Flickr would you be happier?

    Oh, and thank you for reminding me about Flickr licensing. I’ve just made all of mine Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike.

  5. Carolyn Says:

    This has worked very well for me!

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