I need a time machine for three reasons. Number 1: I work at an archeological state park and would love to take interpretation of a prehistoric Mississippian Indian village to a whole new level of accuracy and immersion. Number 2: I think it would be great to see my grandfather playing baseball in his heyday being scouted by the big leagues prior going off to fight in World War II. Number 3: I would insist to my third grade teacher that I really, really need to go to the restroom prior to the unfortunate incident that took place in front of the entire class in 1982.
If there is anyone out there that could invent a time machine it is probably the fine folks at Google. You were probably expecting me to say Steve Jobs or Apple. If you thought that, you don’t know me well enough. The time machine invented by Apple would never work since they would be too worried about what it looked like and all of the other things it could do besides taking you back in time in the first place. I’m sure they could get it done but it would still require a snap-on case that would keep from dropping you off at a Boy George and Culture Club concert in 1984. If Apple made it, the cost would be prohibitive for most, but if Google had one it would be free. Again I digress. Google Maps has created a new partnership with HistoryPin.com to create a new social network of historic images and stories that is a virtual time machine.
When developing personal and nonpersonal interpretive media that involves interpreting the historic fabric of an era images immediately come to mind as being useful. There’s nothing like looking through old images related to your resource. But how do you convey change that has taken place? How can you establish a sense of place from a time period to the place you are standing at now? HistoryPi has an approach that could be a great interpretive tool and create a dynamic community.
Here’s how the resource works. You post a picture, current or historic, and tell the story of the picture to anyone who is interested. You could do this from your own photo collection or from your interpretive site’s collection. Since HistoryPin is partnered with Google Maps the uploaded pictures are connected or pinned to a searchable digital map. Since Google has already photographed the entire world, the uploaded images are connected to Google’s images that can create an overlay of the two images interacting the past with the present or developing different perspectives on your images. The stories are there as well, creating the platform for discussions, connections, and sharing. If you posted pictures of your site a community could be formed though comments and others’ shared stories.
The entire concept of HistoryPin is sponsored by a larger movement known as We Are What We Do. The project has three implications: The obvious historical/cultural resource offered by HistoryPin, the community around those participating on HistoryPin (by posting a picture and a story they are reaching We Are What We Do Action 132: Share a piece of your history), and the social implication of someone with an idea taking the idea that helps make the world a better place. Which just happens to be one of the original goals of IBD, except instead of preserving history and connecting people, Paul and I are creating a database of rants and a virtual junior high school dance.
I love this approach because it aligns so well with what interpretation should be doing at our sites. Not only should a program or piece of media be purposeful, organized, enjoyable, and thematic, but it should be relevant to the lives of the person participating as well as those creating it.
For the record, being dropped by Apple at a Boy George and Culture Club concert is not such a bad thing. That was my first concert at the Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis in 1984. I’m going to see if I can dig up some images of my aunt and me to post on HistoryPin that involve the coliseum.