Fresh & New(er)

discussion of issues around digital media and museums by Seb Chan

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Sharing with SepiaTown – historical images re-mapped

October 19th, 2010 by Seb Chan

Early in the year when I visited Josh Greenberg and the digital team at the New York Public Library, I was told about SepiaTown.

One of quite a few ‘Then & Now’ web projects (see also History Pin), SepiaTown puts historic images back on the (Google) map, also using Google Street View to connect the photography of yore with those of today.

We figured that we’d give SepiaTown a full collection of the geotagged images of Sydney from the sets we’d uploaded to our repository in the Commons on Flickr, and after a bit of to-ing and fro-ing we uploaded a datafile and waited.

We knew that quite a few of the geotags on these images were ‘approximations’, and that to properly do Then & Now, you also need to know the direction in which the photographer was facing. And we also knew that neither the metadata in Flickr or on our own system was enough.

So you can imagine our surprise when Jon Protas at SepiaTown popped into our inbox advising us –

We quickly discovered when we first dug into your collection’s geo-locations that many of them were mapped in a fairly general way, and fell short of our quality control levels. We spent the summer spot-checking each one and correcting the locations for almost all of the images you provided, and we are now confident that the vast majority of the images are now mapped within a 20 yard radius of the exact camera location (and are facing the right direction).

Some were quite tricky, but fortunately, site designer Eric Lehnartz, who is also our main uploader (and a bit of a geo-locating savant), was able to deduce even the more obscure and rural locations.

Wow. They’re improved, fixed, tweaked!

Not only that, SepiaTown are sending the corrected dataset back for ingestion into both our collection management system and thus also into Flickr.

Big thanks to Jon & Eric!

Here’s a few to try from the Powerhouse set (follow the link then click the Then/Now option):

Blaxland’s Tree
Sussex St, North from Market St
Erskine St, West from Kent St
The Spit, Middle Harbour

Check out their blog for other highlights. They have some fantastic images mapped in there.

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