MIMS Final Project 2009

Mapping San Francisco's Photographic History


This project aims to combine collections of historical and current photographs of San Francisco in a single, simple-to-use interface. Users will be able to filter and search for photos, select photos within a map interface, bookmark photos for future reference, and view side-by-side comparisons of certain photos with Google Street View. (And hopefully I'll be able to add a few other features as well.)

What gave you the idea for this project?

I've lived in San Francisco for about three years, and I'm fascinated by its history. I wanted to know more about what the city has looked like in the past and how it has evolved over time, and I know a lot of other San Franciscans who share my curiosity. I thought of it as a sort of time machine — if you could go to any point in the city at any time in its history, what would you see? Without a flux capacitor at hand, I wanted to build the next best thing.

Who might use a system like this?

I believe that researchers and historians would find it very useful. Rather than searching for photographs across multiple collections by using many different interfaces, they would be able to use one central system to find what they are looking for. Ideally, the filtering and mapping interfaces will make photo searches simpler, more intuitive, and more useful than general keyword searches on a collection site.

How does this project integrate what you've learned during your two years at the I School?

This project involves aspects of almost every course I've taken at the I School: approaches for data organization and retrieval, creating useful visualizations, designing with a target audience in mind, and issues of fair use of information. My experience at the I School has significantly shaped and directed my thoughts and design process during every step of the project.

How does this contribute to the more traditional tasks of libraries and archives?

First, these photographs are spread out across a number of separate collections. All of the content is similar — they are photographs of the city — but finding what you are looking for can be like a scavenger hunt. This project aims to simplify what can often be a painstaking retrieval process. Second, by encouraging researchers and other users to provide their own contributions to the project, the project helps build upon the work done by collectors and archivists. Users may be able to help fill in the missing pieces in ways they could not before.

More Information

A sample screenshot, with the results in list view
A sample screenshot, with the results in list view
Isaac Salier-Hellendag
Isaac Salier-Hellendag
A sample screenshot, with photo locations tagged on a neighborhood map
A sample screenshot, with photo locations tagged on a neighborhood map

Last updated:

October 7, 2016