With the great technological advances of our century, it is too easy for the current generation to forge into the future with no regard for the past. And although valuable lessons can be learned from history, teachers have struggled through the years to make dates come alive for their charges. 'The past has nothing to do with us, and we can't change it,' our children say.
Well, not anymore. Historypin is bringing the past to life, putting those yellowed photos of our grandparents on the maps of today's streets. What was once static information is now a reality that our children can explore. Historypin has an ongoing collection of photographs and virtual tours of some of the planet's most popular destinations, such as New York's Times Square and London's River Thames from as far back as 1869.
The website features a Google map of the world on which stacks of pictures are pinned on specific locations. You can look at how buildings, living and environmental conditions and transportation modes have changed over the years, or create your own tours of a particular era.
You can search for historical photos by entering the locations and keywords. A moveable timeline allows you to narrow down a period in history. You will then see clusters of pins with numbers next to them, which means there are several pictures of that area. Once you click on a photo or video, you can see the user who shared it, read the story behind it, or overlay it with the current street view to compare images.
Historypin is democratising the archival process by allowing everyone to contribute their own version of the past. Writing your own version of history is easy. Start by clicking on 'Pin' in the top right-hand corner of any page on the site. Select your photos to upload, give your slice of history a title and then tell your story.
Once you locate your photo, you can overlay your image on today's street view: enter the address and click and drag your photo to the right spot on the map. Your grandma's sepia shots of her street from many years ago can be directly compared with yours of today just like that.
To use the site, you will need an account with Google, which partnered with We Are What We Do to create Historypin. You can also download the app for your mobile devices to check out what is near you and explore collections on the go. Using augmented reality technology, the app is like having a history teacher/tour guide accompanying you on your travels.
For children who find museums boring, Historypin allows them to see, hear and walk through the streets of our past. It makes history come alive and allows them to help build on the story of humanity across cultures, places and time. In the years to come, they will have contributed to a digital resource from which future generations will draw.
Historypin works well for any child old enough to navigate websites on their own. It is a good supplement for geography, history and social studies. Families can also use it to build an understanding of time and place and community cohesion. It's definitely worth exploring. Registration is free at www.historypin.com.