Small towns change slowly, but they do change. Historic photographs and photo postcards show how your town used to look. But how do you share those with visitors? They’re on display in the museum, right? Well, young people aren’t going to your museum. So, let’s reach those young people where they live, right on their phones.
Anybody can do this idea
Dig out those old photos. Figure out the locations they match up to, and go there. Hold up the photo so it looks right in perspective, and take a picture of it. Here are examples from @backroadsnews:
It’s a style being popularized by Dear Photograph. Update: And originated by Jason Powell, as Looking Into the Past.
I see it as a major tourism tool.
Go make your own photos like this in your town. Put them on your website. Post them on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and then make a movie of them and put them on YouTube. (In other words, spread them around.)
If you just did that, that would be super cool. But, let’s go another step.
For the moderately high tech
What if you invited your visitors to get involved? What if you gave them the photos, and let them stand in your town and hold them up, trying to match them to reality? Let’s do that, but without printing paper photos to do it.
- First, scan the old photos and reformat them to be under 100k in size so they are mobile friendly.
- Then post them online. Flickr would be a great place to post them. Posterous would also work. Both give you room to includes some additional info about the historic view. For bonus points, include a link to the Google Places page for the historical museum where they keep the originals of these photos or some other attraction that makes sense.
- Create a QR code link to the mobile-friendly photo page.
- Go find the right spot to stand to line up the photo like in the examples above. Post the QR code there, along with an arrow facing the right direction to line it up, even if you have to paint it on the street.
What happens is this:
- Visitors can scan the QR code, and their phone loads the photo page.
- They can hold up the phone, and try to line up the perspective.
- They also can read the additional historical info you put in there, and see the link to the historical museum. They might even go, since you seem like such a cool town.
Make it a tour
Put together a list of the stops, and you have a tour. If you did this on Posterous, it’s practically done. All you need to add is a post with directions. Flickr automatically can map those photos. How’s that for cool?
Super high tech folks can try this one
What’s the next step? Augmented Reality. Your visitor loads an AR app on their smart phone. They turn on the camera and use it to look around. Their smart phone camera shows them an augmented version of reality, with the old photos automatically layered on top of the current world. Unless you’re a big techie, get a developer to help you.
Make it interesting
The visitors who respond to this will be younger, higher tech, and easily bored. Make your text lively and interesting. Tell the stories your museum ladies never want you to tell, the ones that really make the town come to life.
Get more tourism ideas
Want to know how you do a QR code? How to make a mobile friendly page? That’s the kind of stuff we teach at Tourism Currents.
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There’s a blog that uses this idea,
Becky McCray says
Jamie, yes, you’ll see that link right under the photos in the post. However, it is more of a personal reminiscence site, with little tourism application. What struck me was the potential for small towns to make something useful and interactive from their old photos. So the style of photograph is just the beginning. It’s what you do with it that matters.
Cheryl Smith says
Great idea Becky! Love the Dear Photograph site and this is a super idea to use in tourism. Could work for colleges and alumni as well…
Troy Thompson says
Great post Becky, really love this idea.
For a historical destination, this is a must. Bring the experience outside of the historical society and let everyone interact with it.
Attractions, battlefields, buildings, anything with a history to tell via photos.
This is how destinations begin to brand themselves with historical value.
Let’s hope a few of our DMO friends act upon this one.
- Dan says
I’m glad you picked up on this one because I love your tourism twist (I just thought they looked cool, haha.) I enjoyed taking those pictures and plan on posting more (I’m @backroadsnews). One comment though (this had me confused for a while when I was first working on it), the photos only line up well when looking through the camera/smartphone/whatever lens. If you’re just using your eyeballs to line it up, it will look like it won’t fit (your 3D vision picks up too much). But hold up the camera, and there it is. I got the idea from the Lawrence Journal-World “Dear Lawrence” project and they have some amazing photos there. Love your tourism twist on it, especially the QR code idea. I’m thinking there could be an application with Stickybits too.
Becky McCray says
Dan, I wonder if lining up the image on a phone screen to the real world would work better if you closed one eye? We’ll all have to experiment and find out! And yes, Stickybits would work just as well for sharing the photo to phones.
Elizabeth V says
I love this! And I’ve got a ton of great old photos! Thanks for this great idea!!
Jason Powell says
Long before Dear Photograph existed, I started my Looking Into the Past project, and began a Flickr community that has over 4000 members and 1700+ shots. That group has a bunch of threads with useful information and links to similar projects all around the world, which I imagine would be immensely useful if you are trying to start your own project!
Becky McCray says
Jason, thank you so much for sharing your project. I’ve edited the post to add a link to it. It’s great to see all those examples, and I hope our tourism folks will put the idea to good use!