Over the last few weeks I’ve had the opportunity to work with Teresa and Hillel to develop the RAC’s Historypin channel. Historypin is a geographically-based content aggregator that provides a platform for both institutions and individuals to upload images, audio, video, or narrative text and pin them to locations on a map of the world. Historypin is great because it dramatically expands access to historical materials that otherwise might be part of an infrequently used archival collection or gathering dust in someone’s attic. For the RAC, Historypin is especially beneficial because it allows us to reuse already-digitized content and metadata while also improving our search rankings and creating more ways for people to discover our collections.

The 180 photos that we’ve uploaded to the RAC’s channel were chosen from those digitized for the RF Centennial project. Of course uploading each photo individually would have been incredibly inefficient, so instead, I used Historypin’s bulk upload feature to upload the photos in several large batches. In order to do this, I gathered the metadata for all of the photos into a CSV (comma-separated values) spreadsheet. Using the master list from the RF Centennial database, I compiled file names, titles, keywords, dates, geographic locations, and license and copyright holder information for each photo.

After this information was compiled, various adjustments had to be made. Some photo titles had to be shortened to fewer than 50 characters, and the geographic locations had to be replaced with latitude and longitude coordinates. The geographic coordinates presented some difficulty in terms of granularity because the locations of many photos only included a country (this wouldn’t be a huge problem if these photos were from a small country like Luxembourg, but many were from China, India, and Brazil). We were able to refine the locations for many photos based on Teresa’s subject knowledge, and for those photo locations that could not be narrowed, we ultimately chose to use the coordinates for the countries’ geographic centers.

Next I gathered the first batch of images from the X: drive and prepared to upload them. On the first try, all but 12 of the 80 photos were successfully uploaded. The error messages for these 12 unsuccessful photos did not specify a cause or suggest a solution. The only common link between these photos was the formatting of their dates: each of these photos, and none of the 68 successful photos, had a date that contained a year and a month. The bulk upload instructions indicated that these dates should be formatted as YYYY-MM-?, but after a bit of trial and error, it turned out that the correct format was simply YYYY-MM. Once this confusion was cleared up, the rest of the uploading process was quite straightforward.

After uploading the photos, I arranged them into nine distinct collections. Historypin collections are a group of thematically connected photos that can be viewed as a slideshow and accompanied by introductory text. Teresa wrote the introductions for each of the collections on the RAC’s channel which included the RF’s work with Hookworm, Malaria, Yellow Fever, medical education, science, China, Africa, race, museums and libraries, the arts, and agriculture. These introductions each end with a suggestion to visit the RF Centennial website to learn more about that particular topic. Additionally, each photo is linked back to its original page on the RF Centennial website. As of this writing, the RAC’s channel has had 282 views, the collections have had 129 views, and the individual photos have had a collective 762 views! Hopefully the RAC’s Historypin channel will provide greater exposure for all of the materials that were digitized for the RF Centennial project by driving more traffic to the site.

2018 Note: Historypin channels no longer exist in the same format, but you can find all of this content at the Rockefeller Foundation Digital History Site.