What was here?

This week sees the launch of wherewashere.com:

whatwasHere.com wants to revolutionise how history is written. Its pilot website in Liverpool tells history like it’s never been told before: by everyone. It doesn’t only tell the capital H history of Liverpool, but the everything-interesting-that-ever-happened-to-the-people-who-actually-live-there history of Liverpool. It’s oral history for the My Space era.

Based around Google maps, the site lets people instantly publish the stories that matter to them on the spot where they happened, discuss other people’s stories, use the Timeline to go back in time, make connections between big events and small across the map. If you know something that happened in Liverpool, put it on!

whatwasHere.com’s aim is to get everyone – yes everyone – writing history.

You can follow the project blog at http://blog.whatwashere.com/

What Was Here interface, November 2006

As the press release says, the website aims to allow everyone to contribute to building a history of the world, beginning with the pilot area of Liverpool, UK. You can contribute words and photos to the site, and associate them with a new or existing marker on an embedded Google Map.

This is a great idea, but not completely original. Your History Here, Wikimapia, and a few others have been doing similar things for a while now. However, whatwashere.com have been liaising with various groups around the Liverpool area, such as schools, the BBC, and Liverpool Libraries in order to get a good body of quality material for their launch. There is also a version of the website for under 16’s.

The interface seems a bit cluttered to me on my first look around the site, but I do like the way that they have implemented the temporal aspect. It is very easy to wind back time and see what records are available for any century. Each century is then divided up into ten year slots, allowing you to be quite specific in your search. Results are displayed to the right of the map. When you’re waiting for your query to take place, a nice little message tells you to “Please wait – there’s a lot of history to tell”. I like that!

You can click on points on the map, which expand a bubble with a summary of the information for that point, and a link inviting you to open the material in the viewer to the right of the map. There is a tab in the viewer allowing comments, or another story about that place where you can type away and upload new images.

It looks like a great site and I’m looking forward to when they expand to the rest of the UK. It would be nice if they could link to other services like Flickr and YouTube, as well as provide GeoRSS, but let’s give them a chance to get settled!

Is this the real beginnings of ‘Citizen History’, to go alongside ‘Citizen Journalism’ and ‘Citizen Media’? It’s certainly an application of geotagging the past, and the possibilities are positively exciting if this takes off. It really could help to enrich the past.

Read the press release, or visit whatwashere.com (which is actually www.whatwashere.com – if you miss out the www, as they do in their press release, the site doesn’t work at the time of writing).

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