Google Maps + Historical Photos = Historypin

Google Maps + Historical Photos = Historypin

Emily Stears
Sep 7, 2011

In a quest to transform our house from a blank canvas into a welcoming home that felt truly ours, we came across these online services and mobiles apps to help anyone create some unique prints for the home office wall. With images dating back to the early 1900s, you can look up places you like to hang out, or even your street, and take a journey into your local history, all from your laptop or smartphone...


The Historypin smartphone app for android and iPhone was launched earlier this year. Historypin is a project created by the social movement We Are What We Do, in partnership with Google and is available worldwide. The site works as a digital time machine, allowing people to view and share their historic pictures online.

Using this app or the browser version, you can view old photos of your neighborhood, places you go on vacation, or places you visited in the past. Location searches and 3D camera views are also possible due to GPS technology.

The app also allows you to pin your own historic photos handed down to you through past generations. After uploading the photo, you simply date it and mark the location on google maps or street view and it's there for everyone to see. You can also add stories behind your photographs. Any photos taken with the app will automatically be uploaded together with information on the location.


LookBackMaps isn't a sleek looking site but is another way to share, organize and view historical photographs on the web. This website relies on its users to upload old photos and create a library of historical images.

One drawback to this service is that you can't upload photos directly from your desktop. You first have to upload your photo onto a website like Flickr or Photobucket, to then upload it to LookBackMaps. This is because in order to protect owner's copyright, only photos which can be tracked back to a source can be used.

One interesting feature of this service is that you can search for images based on location or year.

SepiaTown has a huge collection of historical images and each one is accompanied by background information, geographical location and details of the original source. SepiaTown allows users to view thousands of historic photos from around the world.

Using SepiaTown is very easy. All available photos are marked on the map by a thumbnail image. Simply click on the image to view and read.

SepiaTown also features the "Random Button". By clicking on this link on the top right hand corner of the map, you are transported to a randomly selected image of the SepiaTown collection.

Another aspect we found interesting on this website was to instantly compare the historical images in the SepiaTown collection to a contemporary view on the same scene by clicking on the 'Then/Now' button. Sometimes the contemporary 'Then/Now' perspective lines up perfectly with that of the historical image.

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