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History/Today – Digital Resource – Jannelle Legg

History/Today – Digital Resource

A mock up of the History/Today home screen. On a grey background History is written in a calligraphy, Today is written in a thin, contemporary font. The center in the screen reads Let's get started! Find an image using the buttons below! There are three blue buttons, search, geolocate and choose from existing.
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For historians concerned with the construction of physical space there is a lack of real-time visual comparison tools that allow researchers to juxtapose historical images with contemporary space. To resolve this issue currently researchers may bring analog photographs or use mobile devices to display digital images, however, it is unrealistic to expect people to carry historical objects to the site, nor is the current use of digital images effective. Both approaches continue to be imprecise because static historical images cannot be manipulated or merged with current views in real time. Neither method allows for intensive examination of change or development.

A large image of the Capitol building with the image of an iPhone at an angle on the right. The iPhone screen reveals a search of historical images of the Capitol Building, at the top is a black and white photo of the building under construction.
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In response to this problem, I propose that History/Today, a mobile application that superimposes historical images on the camera viewer of your mobile device, will enable access to a great deal more than a single person could carry with them.

Overlaid on an iphone image, a contemporary image of the capitol building is superimposed with a historical image of the building being built. Editing tools appear on the right.
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The addition of modification tools facilitates dynamic interaction between viewer, history and space. As a form of augmented reality (AR), History/Today would allow researchers to reconstruct the context in which an image was captured providing for the comparison of contemporary spatial organization and architecture with that which has existed in the past.

Upon opening the app, users would be prompted to make choices about how the program should function. Users may choose images using a search feature (drawing images from a search engines using search terms provided by the user), by allowing the phone’s internal GPS to locate them on a map, or by utilizing an existing photo from their mobile device. In each case users will then choose an image from the populated list. History/Today accesses the phone’s camera and superimposes the selected image on the camera viewer. The interface includes a sidebar that enables the modification of the AR display. In my paper I described each of these features at length, they include: a search function, geolocation function and the choose from existing function for the population of overlay images, these images can be modified by being moved/resized, compared, made more or less transparent, lines blurred or portions of the image can be erased. Following a period of modification, users may then choose to save the composite image they have generated.

Comparison Tool
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Tool Example
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An image of the White House is super imposed with a historical image of an egg hunt. Red squiggly lines appear on the left.
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Existing tools and resources have attempted to provide resolution to these problems but do not adequately meet the needs of researchers. In an effort to respond to these concerns, I have added or modified existing technology to better serve the needs of this population. A real-time overlay provides users with greater flexibility and allowing them to capture images that are precise and clearly aligned. Comparison photos are quickly and easily constructed with the click of a button. Harsh boundaries between past and present are mediated using the transparency, blur and erase functions. Further, using erase allows for the selective juxtaposition of past and present with interesting results. Giving users the option of drawing from their own database enables researchers to bring images of interest to the center of their exploration. History/Today should and can be responsive and the application of this tool is limited only by the exploration of its users.

8 thoughts on “History/Today – Digital Resource”

  1. This is a really sharp… cool… proposal. I especially like the ability to selectively erase portions of a graphic/photo to allow better comparison with an existing site!

  2. This looks awesome. Your mockups are fantastic and I think the resource really takes something like History Pin to the next level. I think augmented reality is going to continue to be a big part of digital and public history and I think it has the potential to do a lot of really useful things. Great job!

  3. Great idea and well explained! They always do this with analog photos at Manassas battlefield. I never really thought about how this concept could actually be beneficial to the understanding of history until reading your BLOG. Your tool would definitely bring something new to the study of history.

  4. This is really cool! The images are awesome and it gave me a clear idea what your tool looks like. This tool attracts to both historians and people who doesn’t know much about history. I would also like to have this app in my phone!

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