Not many people go into space. Fewer still get to pilot a time-machine. So when I was invited to become Director of Historypin, I put aside everything I was working on and accepted immediately.
Three aspects of the project appeal to me particularly.The first is the sheer scale and ambition of the venture – the fact that we can now not just dream about the possibility of a global archive with almost infinite storage capacity but actually realise it. Here is where the partnership with Google is crucial.
The second is that it is democratic. Everyone can use it. Kings, Queens, Empires and armies dominate conventional historical narratives, but Historypin is where the people get to walk onto the stage.
The third is the power that this has to change our consciousness.For, as we become graphically more aware of the world changing in front of our eyes, we begin to understand ourselves more clearly as part of that process: past, present and future.
In terms of my strategy for the project I see three strands. The first is an approach to archives, big and small, public and private. There are an estimated twelve billion undigitised photographs gathering dust in boxes around the world. Here’s our chance to dig out those unseen images and put them into a global album.
The second strand is schools and communities. Historypin is the brainchild of the social action movement, We Are What We Do, whose aim is to foster change through getting lots of people to take simple actions. Historypin is the centrepiece of a campaign to encourage people to share their stories, and especially to foster dialogue across generations and across communities.
The third strand is individuals – people making history now. People reading this blog. You! People taking holiday snaps, visiting places which are special to them, or simply recording the world they daily inhabit and the ways it’s changing. The building that got bulldozed. The graffiti that suddenly appeared – disappeared – then reappeared afresh…and the stories behind all these events.
The past has the power to challenge, provoke, inspire, intrigue, redeem…All human life is here. That’s what makes Historypin to my mind one of the most exciting cultural innovations of our time. Care to climb aboard?
About the author: Tony Morris holds a doctorate in history from Cambridge University. Before joining Historypin, he ran the world’s largest history list at Oxford University Press, was a founding director of Hambledon and London (Sunday Times Small Publisher of the Year 2001-2002) and first Chief Executive of The History Press. He is also a published author, partner in an historical walks company and co-director of Historyfm, the UK’s only multi-media history agency.