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Historypin share their top tips

What’s it all about?

Historypin is a suite of online tools designed to help museums, libraries and community groups share their collections of archived materials (e.g. historic photos) with as wide an audience as possible.  

Not only do Historypin’s tools make these materials far more accessible, they have proved incredibly effective in facilitating community engagement in the creation of new resources, including jointly curated collections, guided tours, and inter-generational ‘living memory’projects.

Nominet Trust supported the development of Historypin Channel tools which provide all heritage content owners in the world, including UK libraries, archives and museums in particular, with a free, customised space to open up their content to their communities - locally, nationally and internationally.


Getting content up and seen - 1090 institutional channels have been created – this includes 661 libraries, archives and museums, 147 community groups and 128 businesses who have uploaded over 330,000 images. In total these have had over 500,000 views.

Helping people use it - The community and ‘how to’ section of the Historypin site has had over 20,000 visits from 93 countries. The site includes a wide range of resources to help facilitate local history projects and community organisations.

Sharing the findings - A paper on Participatory Museums produced in partnership with the Collections Trust (a leading professional body for the use of collections in museums, libraries and archives) has had over 20,000 views.

So far so good, but what social change has that achieved?

Reaching new audiences inside and out - 67% of institutions (including community groups) say that Historypin has helped them reach new audiences. 54% of institutions said that Historypin had helped them engage their community more, and this often included their own staff and volunteers who were excited about using the tool.

Creating new services - 40% of institutions have used the channel and it’s tour facilities e.g. to create new walking tours and trails for example a group of participants from The Story Museum created their own Historypin tour inspired by Oxford’s heritage story.

Increasing access - People are able to access archives they otherwise wouldn't be able to phsically explore for example; the vast collection of Samuel Butler images held by St. John’s College Cambridge. The websites are also free to access which removes the barrier of cost to not-for-profit organisations and community members.

Community participation and curation - Historypin has helped facilitate greater community engagement in using and curating collections. For example, a project in Reading asked the entire community to get involved and gather together the history of the local area by sharing photos, videos, stories and memories.  It culminated in an interactive exhibition entitled ‘Pinning Reading’s History’ held at Reading Museum, from September 2011 to January 2012.  An external evaluation of this project by the Local Government Information Unit found ‘strong evidence of increased social capital and inter-generational contact and understanding.’

What would you do differently?

Here’s three amazing top tips from Nick Stanhope, CEO of We Are What We Do, that are useful for any digital project

Iterative Prototyping
1) Undertake as many iterative prototyping phases as possible. We work through a series of very simple stages over the first year of a project, creating paper prototypes to run tests with and harnessing existing platforms and communities to piecing together live "straw dogs" with open source tools before we write a line of our own code.

Do one thing well
2) Start by doing one thing really well, rather than everything moderately well or badly. The first iterations of digital projects should only really represent about 10% of the functionality that might emerge over the next few months and years. And that 10% should be the thing that you think (you might be wrong!) represents unique value.

3) It takes a long time before its any good. With the exception of a small handful of Silicon Valley bolters, digital projects take 3-5 years before they are any good. This 3-5 years is made up of a series of iterative stages and its all about trying to give a project the best possible chance of staying alive and working through these stages. To get to the next stage, for example, you may only need a small piece of very good evidence that there is social impact and potential to scale.

If you want to us to shout about your project in our next newsletter, drop us a line. Remember to include your evaluation findings though... 

With thanks to Nick Stanhope for sharing his evaluation of Historypin.