Putting KC History on the Virtual Map

The Missouri Valley Special Collections’ digital gallery at kchistory.org is already a wonderful  repository of the people, places, and stories that make up our city’s past. Now, that collection has even more of a worldwide reach, thanks to Historypin.

Historypin is kind of like Google Earth with an historic bent (in fact, the site is working in partnership with Google). In a nutshell, users create profiles and “pin” street-view photos of historic places to the worldwide map.

In April 2011, MVSC was invited to contribute digital photographs depicting street-level views of historic Kansas City buildings to Historypin’s worldwide, multimedia map.

Once those photos are uploaded, an interactive slider lets you shift between the past and present. For example, the image below shows the Main Street Theater as it was in 1922 overlaid on today’s Google street view:

Historypin - Main Street TheaterHistorypin's overlay feature lets you shift between past and present.

With help from substitute Katie Sowder, MVSC librarian Sherrie Smith has so far “pinned” 94 photos to the Library’s Historypin profile, along with historic information for each photo. Other local organizations (such as the Kansas Historical Society and the Clay County Missouri Historic Sites department) and individuals have also pinned photos to the Kansas City map, which boasts images going back to the 1840s.

The Kansas City Public Library was one of the site’s initial partners, a prestigious list that included the Museum of the City of New York, San Francisco Municipal Transport Archive, The New York Transit Museum, and PhillyHistory.org, and the New York Public Library.

Based in London, Historypin is a project of the nonprofit company We Are What We Do, a group that develops products and applications focused on promoting social good. Check out a video of the company’s CEO giving a Google Tech Talk about Historypin.

And then get to know Historypin for yourself. Start in KC or search for the city of your choice. There’s an app for it, too.

About the Author

Jason Harper is the web content developer and social media manager at the Kansas City Public Library.
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