Pinning the Past

This week in Digital History we discussed photograph alterations and looked at examples from history, which led to the question of the role photographs play in the creation of memories and if they are a reliable source. A really interesting example that was brought up was that of hidden mothers in Victorian portraits, I had never seen these before, but think they are great. When portraits were initially completed with the early cameras, one had to sit and hold their position for a while in order for the picture to set and not come out blurry. I never really thought of how hard this would have been for busy little children, especially if you wanted just them in the picture….thus the hidden mother comes into play. These pictures solidify the need to hold still in order for the picture to take, what is hilarious is how these mothers thought of hiding themselves as pieces of furniture and essentially do a really bad job of it.  The photographs probably would have turned out a lot better if the mother had just sat with the children unhidden, instead of the almost ghost like presence looming with the children…although then we wouldn’t have these great photographs.

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In a previous blog on ‘Spatial History and Time Travel,’ I had brought up the great photographic tour on History Pin that was completed by the London Public Library, through the use of their photograph collection. Through History Pin, people all over the world can pin historical photographs onto a shared map for others to view. What is really great is that through the street view tool, the photograph can be placed over the almost exact current day position, allowing for one to visualize the difference and see how a current day building would have look liked years ago. Thus the task this week was to upload a photograph on History Pin and using street view, overlay the historical photograph onto its current location. 

I chose a photograph of Balm Beach,  which has been a significant leisure area for locals and tourists for many years in the Township of Tiny. The photograph was also taken by a very influential artist in the area, Budd Watson, who had a camera shop on King Street, in Midland. 

Step 1: Select Photo and upload



Step 2: Add information on photograph



Step 3: Pin It! (using street view) 



Once the information and pin has been saved others can view it and post comments.  One option is viewing the pin by its location on the shared map. 



The other option is through street view. A great thing about street view is that through the ‘Fade’ tool at the bottom of the screen, you can fade the photograph in and out to see the difference in landscape and the alterations to the building. 






History Pin is a great tool, as it allows one to upload collections of old photographs to specific locations, then there is also the option of creating a tour of the uploaded pictures. There are only a few photographs uploaded on the Southern Georgian Bay region, but if you move to more populated areas the number of pins increasingly grows. Another cool feature is that you can also pin video or audio clips to a particular location. You can also connect and share memories in regards to the photograph subject. For a history nerd this is so much cooler than normal Google Earth, as you can easily see by locations hundreds of historical photographs.


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