Places + Memories 3.0

Place + Memory Project is one of the new media life forms created as part of the pilot phase of MQ2. Shea Shackelford and Jennifer Deer launched a wiki platform where anyone from anywhere can upload content about beloved sites that no longer exist in the real world, but can be remembered in the virtual world.

With the advent of the iPhone, mobile gaming and augmented reality applications, the intersection of “place” and “memory” is reaching a new level for user experience and engagement. This is truly The Next Big Thing. Let me share with you some examples of different applications that aim to revive our sense of history and restore our sense of place.

HistoryPin is partnering with Google to create a digital time machine that enables you to share, map and view images from the past.

Are you ready to climb up into the dusty attic, go deep into the moldy cellar, and dig out any sepia-tinged historical photos to contribute to this global image memory bank? 10,676 photos have been uploaded to HistoryPin so far.

What’s fascinating about these new apps is that they open up the entire real world to many layers of experience, turning streets into living museums where images of the past can be superimposed on the present, or the present can be peeled back to reveal the past, and collected memories and stories can be accessed in real time.

PetaPixel recently posted about a new Museum of London app that enables people to use their mobile phones and GPS devices to pull up this kind of archival material. It’s called StreetMuseum and its not just for tourists. However, tech companies in the European Union are reportedly busy developing augmented reality apps that will deepen tourists’ engagement with historical sites, beyond the typical jump off the bus and quick click of the camera.

One blog post asked if these new magical capabilities unleashed by programs like Layar, Wikitude and Junaio will change our relationship to history.

Real Vision Consultancy writes, “These ‘Digital Ghosts’ will be inhabiting our world alongside us, waiting to be revealed through the View Finder of a Smart phone, and in the next few years via digital sunglasses such as those from Vuzix. This will further blur the line between our present world and History – So will History be ‘history’ if it’s always living with us?”

In effect, history itself can no longer be erased. And either can graffiti. One clever artist is using QR codes “to preserve graffiti for posterity.” Smart phones with matrix code readers will be able to access “public wall art” after its been whitewashed by authorities.

There is something about the human animal that thrives on memory. Perhaps it’s part of our evolutionary adaptation. We need stories about the past to know who we are. We’ve all heard the sayings: “if we don’t know our history, we are destined to repeat it,” and “you don’t know where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been.”

Public media has a role to play in creating a sense of community not just about the present day, but also about our shared past. KCET-TV, for example, has a series called “Things That Aren’t Here Anymore,” which profiles lost places that shaped a generation in Southern California.


Have you found any other cool collective/collaborative history projects in the world of public media? If so, please share the links. Can you imagine ways of using these emerging technologies in your own work?

So, now that you’ve read about all of these opportunities for immersive journalism experiences, I want to ask: Have you posted anything to the Place+Memory Project?

I did. Although the place I remembered wasn’t actually a place I truly remember. It was the Palm Beach Swim Club, a pool my late father owned briefly in the Philadelphia suburbs before I was born. I’m still hoping my mother will invite her friends to go online and post their own memories of a place they have described to me over the years with great fondness and affection.

The pool was eventually paved over and became an auto dealership. I grew up not far from there and every time our family would drive by that concrete corner of Baltimore Pike, past the lot of shiny new cars glistening in the summer sun, I’d imagine the sounds of a swim club: water splashing, joyful squeals of children, the walla-walla of announcements on the loudspeakers, the sizzle of the grills.

Place + Memory Project is an easy and a great way to get your friends, families, and other people in your social networks to gather around a shared memory. And, it’s a terrific tool for public media stations to use to invite their listeners to collaboratively document the changes over time in their own communities.

If you could go back to a place in time in your own life, where would it be? Post your recollections to Place + Memory.