Geotagging Joy

There is much joy to be found in the interactivity offered by Recollect – you can tag people, add interesting keywords, and personal stories and memories – but one of the most addictive offerings is the ability to Geotag a photograph.
My geotagging addiction started while working on the National Army Museum’s brand new Recollect site. In the process of adding generalised location information, it became clear that some of the landmarks featured in the photographs could still be standing 100 years on.  An addition to the node template was made on the fly and within a few short clicks the ability to search for and pinpoint the location on the globe was enabled for every photograph on the site.
When you add a geotag to a photograph you have the ability to set a zoom level to suit the accuracy of your marker. For example, if you are not totally sure of the exact location of the photograph, but you do know the country or town, your zoom level can be adjusted to pin the country or town.  But, if you can discern more information from the photograph or caption, you may be able to pinpoint a particular street or landmark.

Diagram illustrating different zoom levels

The real fun begins now. Thanks to Google, StreetView is available for many parts of the world. By using your maximum zoom level Geotag, and combining it with the StreetView panorama, suddenly you have the possibility of replicating the angle of the photograph to display the landmark both how it looked when the image was taken, and how it looks if not today then at least in the very recent past.
Your Geotag field gives the option to include StreetView imagery as well as a map

Original photograph taken during WWI with Geotag and Street View maps left. Click on the StreetView map…

…and a window opens containing an interactive map. Here’s the same bridge today.

Another example – Synagogue, Capetown then and now

Google has taken their StreetView cameras off the streets and actually inside some of the special places around the world. This means you can virtually walk through the likes of Pompeii in Italy, and Stonehenge in England. When I discovered a batch of portraits taken in Stonehenge, I was able to map almost the exact spot the portraits were taken.
Stonehenge then and now

Why is Geotagging  important?
In my opinion, it enhances the connection to the past, it helps to cement the idea that these abstract images relate to real experiences by real people in real places.  It can spark interest or discovery of new places and peoples, so can make a great teaching tool for primary and secondary teachers of history and geography. It also adds a whole new layer of knowledge – for example military historians may be able to pinpoint names like ‘Hill 63’ on a map of Belgium to allow those of us with limited or lesser understanding to learn more about the geography of the Western Front in WW1.
Finally it brings a new level of engagement by the members of your Recollect site. It’s a fun and rewarding task that can be done anywhere, anytime, by any one of your trusted members or editors (your choice) and is one of those activities that is likely to be shared as a ‘cool thing to do’. If you haven’t tried Geotagging on your own site yet, I suggest you give it a try. But, due to its addictive nature,  perhaps meet that pressing deadline first.