Inconvenient Camels

Black and white photograph of the Great Sphinx in Giza, Egypt. Photograph was likely taken by Noelle Ora Sandwith in the 1920s and is now held in the British Museum collections.  Museum Number: Oc,160.26

Black and white photograph of the Great Sphinx in Giza, Egypt. Photograph was likely taken by Noelle Ora Sandwith in the 1920s and is now held in the British Museum collections.
Museum Number: Oc,160.26

This week our assignment was to create an account on HistoryPin, a site crowdsourcing platform where users can place historical images on a map and create tours using the images.  I initially wanted my tour to be of historical images from 1890s – 1920s showing major archaeological excavations in Egypt.  However, I struggled to find images.  I searched in museum collections, museums and institutions I knew funded digs during that time period, and yet I only found one excavation image.  I think some of this problem could be the metadata for the online collections, or the excavation images may not be digitized.  In the end, I pulled my images from the British Museum and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  My tour, “Ancient Egypt in Black and White,” can be found here.

It was simple to create an account with HistoryPin and very straight-forward and intuitive to pin images.  I only ran into a few issues pinning my pictures to the street view and lining up the historical image with the modern-day view.  Take a look at this camel and its rider blocking a perfect line-up of the Great Sphinx.

A group of rides on a camel (and a horse?) inconveniencing my history pin.

A group of riders on a camel (and a horse?) inconveniencing my history pin.

Another problem I faced was that historical sites are no longer in the same location…or even marked on a map.  A few of my pins are just floating above the desert…or they are underwater.  The Aswan High Dam, constructed in the 1960s, raised the water level of the Nile and subsequently there were several ancient monuments moved to higher ground, the most famous being Abu Simbel.  One of the images I chose for my tour was of Temple de Deboud, a site that used to be located about 9 miles south of Aswan in Southern Egypt.  It is now in Madrid, Spain.  Where to pin the image?  I wanted to show the image in the same spot as the photographer saw it, but there is nothing there besides water to compare to the historical image.  I decided to pin the Temple de Deboud to the reconstructed temple in Spain.  The pin on my tour seems out of place at first glance, but it presents an interesting moment in history.

Salted paper print from paper negative photograph by John Beasley Greene (American, active France, 1832-1856) circa 1853-54. The photograph is now in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Temple de Deboud [Debod] was an Egyptian site in Nubia and used to be located about 9 miles south of Aswan. After the construction of the Aswan Dam, the temple was moved to Madrid, Spain.  Accession Number: 2005.100.76

Salted paper print from paper negative photograph by John Beasley Greene (American, active France, 1832-1856) circa 1853-54. The photograph is now in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Temple de Deboud [Debod] was an Egyptian site in Nubia and used to be located about 9 miles south of Aswan. After the construction of the Aswan Dam, the temple was moved to Madrid, Spain.
Accession Number: 2005.100.76

    I also had some very successful match-ups!  These are both images from the Luxor Temple complex.  Doesn’t appear too much has changed over the decades!

Gelatin silver print photograph of ruined temple complex at Luxor of a row of columns with cross-bars and large statues. Photograph taken by Clifford Hunt in circa 1917 in the collections at the British Museum.  Museum Number: Af,A52,92

Gelatin silver print photograph of ruined temple complex at Luxor of a row of columns with cross-bars and large statues. Photograph taken by Clifford Hunt in circa 1917 in the collections at the British Museum.
Museum Number: Af,A52,92

Gelatin silver print process photograph taken by Clifford Hunt circa 1917 held in the British Museum collections. Ramesses statue standing between two stone columns at ruined temple site in Luxor.  Museum Number: Af,A52.94

Gelatin silver print process photograph taken by Clifford Hunt circa 1917 held in the British Museum collections. Ramesses statue standing between two stone columns at ruined temple site in Luxor.
Museum Number: Af,A52.94

I was surprised to see that HistoryPin only has 419,732 pins as of today – I was expecting a much larger collection.  Because of some of the issues I encountered with the map and street view portion of the application, I see HistoryPin as more useful for Western historical societies, although it would be interesting to see others use the platform to place their image collections.

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7 thoughts on “Inconvenient Camels

  1. danielledulken

    Alexandra, I’m always grateful for your commitment to ancient history. The topic is welcomed and refreshing.

    I appreciated your collections variety and your comments on challenges and success. The images that work really do work so nicely, but I do find it problematic that the program is less realistic for Eastern and ancient history, especially considering the rich origins of these locations. It seems like something you’re up against in a lot of your research. I wonder how users might draw attention to gaps in these designs?

    I did notice your map was not a walking tour per se, but rather a sampling of images spanning a country (aside from the location highlighted in Spain). I’ve personally wrestled with finding a local narrative that could be walkable/ drivable, but your project makes me recognize I might be over thinking this aspect. Do you think it matters if the tour could realistically be created?

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    • Thank you, Danielle! You know I will do all that I can to add some ancient history to the mix, as I feel is is underrepresented!!

      How can we draw attention to these gaps? I think I could write a whole article on that particular subject…I think it starts with us ancient historians proving that our history is relevant and shareable, just like modern history. From this course, I found that new media is receptive to ancient history, and a great way to share with so many people that ancient history is just as important and relevant to study as modern history.

      My “tour” became international very quickly…I didn’t want to leave out any of the images I found! I think if I were to make another HistoryPin collection, I would limit myself to one city or collection of nearby archaeology sites. I think my biggest challenge was finding historical images that were digitized and available to the public. In the end, I do not think it needs to be a realistic tour…I think that most people are going to experience the tour from their computer and not while they are on-location. Does HistoryPin have a way of “checking-in” on-location or a way of monitoring how the tours are used?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Alexandra,

    I really enjoyed this post, and especially the title! I also ran into some logistical problems with street view, but it sounds like you seem to have much more success than I did with the application. I think street view has a lot of potential if you are geolocating a very memorable and long-lasting landmark (as you did). I really struggled with this, because my local photographs of Vashon Island were often in locations that were not street view accessible. The one photograph of Vashon Town where I was able to use streetview did not match up with any buildings I could recognize, so I was unsure of the exact location. I wonder if a way to remedy this is to upload current photographs you take yourself and attach them to the same pin? That might take more time, but if you have an inconvenient camel on your hands, or no street view option whatsoever, perhaps this is a way to work around the logistical challenges?

    Like

    • I wonder, you can upload modern photos? This would solve those camel problems and your missing Vashon Town building. Do you think the building you are looking for is still there on Vashon Island? What should you do if the place you want to pin your photo to no longer exists?

      It would be interesting feature on HistoryPin to be able to load a modern photo taken from the same angle, etc. as the historical photo and then present both photos, or a series of photos, in a side-by-side or overlapping comparison.

      Like

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