Monday, October 23, 2006

I really want to make my project relative to the work I do at the National Archives. I am employed in the Still Picture unit, so I’ve decided to incorporate photographs. Even though it is only a slight percentage of our actual holdings (approx. 10 million photographs and 20,000 graphic images), you can find over 100,000 digitized images in our Archival Research Catalog (ARC), which uses a search screen and results page similar to most search engines. Recently, I’ve tried to think of different ways to present this information to the public and I believe mapping tools have great potential. We have a large collection of aerial views of the United States taken by the Army Air Corps in the 1920’s through WWII. My idea is to create a web site which utilizes mapping technology by allowing visitors to view recent satellite images of a particular area and enable them to click on a marker to see how the area looked 60 to 80 years ago. As first, I would probably have to concentrate my project on a specific area.

To demonstrate the possibilities of modern technology, I might create a web page using I have access to a high end scanner, so digitizing the images won’t be a problem. My final project proposal will relay on a contractor to build the site. The Archives is currently working with a company called Second Story ( to create a new online exhibit, so they could be consulted considering they have done a similar project in the past. They produced a site for National Geographic entitled “Exploring the Chesapeake Bay Then and Now” ( The site is Flash-based and allows visitors to explore the bay virtually through the use of a map interface.

As a government institution, you could say the funding would come from the good old taxpayers, but I believe we have partnered with private companies in the past on similar projects, so that is always a possibility. Creating online exhibits and collection databases are not part of my job description, so I don’t know if any of this would actually happen unless those offices wanted to collaborate or wanted online project ideas.


Blogger Misha Griffith said...

Billy, what a hot idea! Aren't you, as a US Citizen able to get copies of these Photos? It would take a great deal of work to scan them, but what a great resource. I think the general public would love to look at them--especially those folks on the West coast who's houses have only been around for a few years. My husband would spend hours looking at it.

11:33 AM  
Blogger Tender Mercies said...

Fascinating idea. I'm especially intrigued by showing change over time with maps. Can you use any maps in between to make the change more gradual?

10:14 AM  
Blogger Epistemographer said...

Like Jenny, I'm particularly intrigued by the interface questions; while you'd farm out the actual construction of a site to a contractor, I'd want you to go into a fair amount of depth about the ways in which people would interact with the materials. Would it be a standalone Flash map, or more of an open API-based mashup of your geocoded images and metadata with existing map services? I'm quite happy if you sketch out ideas without being sure of how they'd be implemented; use this proposal as a chance to flesh out your ideal, pie-in-the-sky vision of what you'd want to build.

Also along those lines, I'm wondering how much work it would be to actually geocode those images, and the extent to which you'll want to make that information available to the public as well. Would you want to build in an API yourself? What kinds of things will users be able to do; can they, for example, help annotate? Or will this be a purely broadcast-only site?

2:48 PM  

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