Pinning Your History: The Year of the Bay Collection

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The Year of the Bay Project Pinned Map

New digital platforms have enabled public historians and museum professionals to create “dialogic opportunities by balancing both traditional curatorial content and visitor-contributed content.”[1]. Digital projects, like the Year of the Bay Project, invite public historians and non-professional historians to navigate new technologies and to engage and interpret the past in the present. The Year of the Bay Project, a collection in the larger digital project Historypin, serves as a spatial pinning platform that shares archival photographs of the San Francisco Bay and invites users to not only interpret their collections, but contribute their own SF Bay memories and content as well [2].

Beginning as a British community engagement project in 2010, Historypin partnered with Google to build collective memories of neighborhoods in the United Kingdom [3]. As Historypin grew in popularity, other local projects, like Year of the Bay and LGBT America,are using Historypin’s platform to publish their collections in the digital world. These local projects can upload and link their digitized photographs to Google Maps and they are layered onto modern street views.

screen-shot-2017-01-24-at-9-40-01-pmSnow on Potrero Avenue, 1932, Contributed by Potrero Hill Archives Project, The Year of the Bay Project

Over 6,331 materials, memories, or contributions are currently uploaded on the Year of the Bay Project [4]. The photographs and other content are geolocated and pinned to their original locations, and some images layered over a modern Google Map Street view. By allowing users to view historic images within their modern context, this then and now feature is great visual tool for measuring changing in the built environment over time. Users can virtually walk down memory lane and experience their community both in both the past and present [5]. The project’s simple interface enables users to move throughout San Francisco Bay easily, with pins denoting photo, audio, or other content connected to different locations.

In addition to showcasing local archival materials, Year of the Bay Project encourages users to upload and “pin” personal photographs, audio, video, and other content to their maps. This crowdsourcing tool allows users to answer questions posed by the mysteries section, add to the ever growing digital image collection, and write history. Whether you are a scholar, student, or local history enthusiast, users can share their memories in photographs in order to build a collaborative, unrestrictive archive of local images and memories within interactive arena.

While other crowdsourcing digital projects require users to meet minimum qualifications as an amateur historian to contribute to a project, like the Dictionary of Sydney, the Year of the Bay Project allows anyone with a Twitter, Facebook, or Google account to add content. Community members can contribute any form of content they desire, without consulting a historian or meeting professional standards. The democratic nature of this project allows a free flow of information and the expansion of the digital archive daily, however, this invites further questions of credibility and quality control of the content. In order to curb “bad history,” the project’s partnering institutions like the San Francisco Public Library and Stanford University Library Special Collections actively tract changes and answer questions posed in by public users. As with other Historypin projects, public historians are taking an active role in The Year of the Bay Project by contributing their own posts that providing public users with example content to model [6].

The Year of the Bay Project is a great collaborative image and memories collection for the city of San Francisco and it continues to grow daily. This digital platform serves a tool for the Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Photo ArchiveCalifornia State Library, and San Francisco Public Library to share their archives and work with the public to create a shared local history. The Year of the Bay Project is not only a expansive digital archive; it fosters community ties and encourages an inviting collaborative environment for creating digital history.


  1. Matthew Fisher and Bill Adair, “Online Dialogue and Cultural Practice : A Conversation,” Letting Go: Sharing Historical Authority in a User-Generated World (Philadelphia: Pew Center for the Arts & Heritage, 2011), 44.
  2. “Year Of the Bay Project” accessed January 24, 2017.
  3. “Historypin,” accessed January 24, 2017. 
  4. Ibid.
  5. Crow, Charlotte. “Historypin: Patchwork History,” History Today. June 7, 2010. accessed  January 24,  2017.
  6. Foster, Meg, “Online and Pugged In?: Public History and Historians in the Digital Age,” Public History Review, Vol 21. (2014). Accessed January 24, 2017,

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