“More is better!”: Contributing to Historypin

Historypin, a website dedicated to creating an extensive collection of historical photographs cataloged by location and date, has benefited from the contributions of an Ohio local history museum.  The Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center promotes Ohio history by uploading images of the past to the website’s global archive of photo, video, audio, and narrative text.

What is Historypin?

best history pin street viewIn partnership with Google, the not-for-profit company We Are What We Do created this global user-generated online archive to promote social connections across generations, cultures, and places.  Unlike similar sites, Historypin takes advantage of location-based data to place images on top of the current Street View function of Google Maps, as well as organized on a timeline dating back to the first recorded photographs of the 1840s.  Nan Card, curator of manuscripts at the Hayes Center, has placed images featuring early Fremont homes and businesses that fade out to Google’s present-day street views.  Both the website and the mobile app, Card says, “create interest in the past by combining history and geography”

The site is free to users, has no ads, and carries no copyrights, allowing the 1200 plus institutions who contribute images to keep their rights to the images.  This encourages institutions to upload photos from their archives that will conserve and open up their collections for everyone to enjoy, learn from, and improve their sense of history.

Organizations use Historypin to share glimpses of their story of the past with millions of people.  Card was eager to share the center’s collections with as wide an audience as possible and found this free digital tool was a unique opportunity to display the Hayes Center’s historic photographs online.  After learning about the website in the Midwest Archives Conference newsletter, she discovered there were no photos pinned to the Battle of Iwo Jima.  The Hayes Center holds a collection of photos taken by the late Fremont native Richard Stotz who was a Marine combat photographer during World War 2.  The photos were pinned by Card’s assistant, Julie Mayle, and instantly drew an impressive number of views.  Historypin highlighted these photos as a “Story of the Week,” bringing heavy attention to both the photos and the Hayes Center’s website, which is linked to each photo.  The viewers were able to learn more about the photographer, WW2, and the Hayes Center in one click.


Use Historypin to show what your organization knows best by “pinning” photographs to geographic locations that engage others with the history of their family, streets, country, and world.  Historypin operates with the belief that everyone has a piece of history to share that can add to a more complete understanding of the world.  Through this website, Historypin and its contributors aim to build stronger communities around a shared local history that helps them feel closer to the places where they live.  Card has noticed that educators are particularly enthusiastic about this project because “tech-savy students” are able to engage with their communities and share their interest with others from different generations, cultures, and locations.  When Card featured Historypin during a Teaching American History workshop, educators immediately recognized this opportunity to work with historical societies’ collections to help students better understand their communities’ past.  Card believes that through this website, students will learn about “the people, places, and event that came long before them” and that “they often discover that they truly are interested in history!”

Card encourages others to engage with Historypin because “anyone and everyone from around the world can participate…Everyone benefits not only from their photographs, but also from their personal knowledge and historical memory. More is better!”

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