Using New Technology to Look at Old Buildings

While the time machine is still waiting to be invented, I have been having fun with a few bits of new technology to look at some old and new sites.

First, I have been spending some time looking at the holdings of the Internet Archive. This is a fantastic organization that is dedicated to offering permanent access to many collections of digital/digitized content. I have previously used the site's Way Back Machine to look at older versions of web sites and sometimes to find old versions of software. I had not spent too much time looking at the other holdings. As well as the Way Back Machine, the Internet Archive hosts extensive collections of moving images, texts, software and audio.

For someone as curious and distractible as I am, this has become a bottomless pit of interesting archived material. My current list of bookmarked pages can be found at http://www.archive.org/bookmarks/timwayne. The finding aids are poor when compared to a reference desk at an archive, but good enough for my purposes. In the texts collection most items are accessible online (using good page turning software) and can be downloaded in multiple formats.

While browsing a booklet (http://www.archive.org/details/souveniroftoront00torouoft) I recognized old views of familiar Toronto buildings and street scenes. Curious as to how these scenes currently look, I browsed maps of the same places with Google Street View. Google Street View is flexible enough that I was able to recreate many of the views from the archived texts. My first attempt at matching an old image to a current street view (and still one of my favourites) was the corner of Huron and Bloor, near where I grew up. Finding the right Street View image to match the old photos is pretty fun (for me). The only picture I actually took was for a view of the canal in Ottawa that Street View didn't have. I used this photo from my phone instead.

The idea of using Google Street Views and the Internet Archive, two sites that are using excellent new technologies, to get a new perspective on old images appeals to me. I also liked the fact that looking at these images online got me to walk around to see if I could find them today. I have a bunch of old/new matches bookmarked ready for when I have a few extra minutes to entertain myself. This is of course a game anyone can play. In fact, I have a few old images that I can't identify, perhaps I'll ask for help the Internet way if I remain stumped.

Take a look at the previous few entries on this site to see how it's done.

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