Thing 5 : Photos + Maps + Apps

We are pleased to have Shielski Montenegro (PH) from Rizal Library, Ateneo de Manila University to share her insights with us. We (Karryl and Joan) have added some examples from Singapore and the Philippines, which we hope will be useful and interesting for you. Make sure you click all tabs (Discover, Explore, and Activities) to get to the end of the lesson.

Don’t you wish you could travel back in time? Visit historical sites in other countries, catch a glimpse of the lives of your ancestors, witness the evolution of landscapes and architecture through the decades? I can only imagine how breathtaking that would be! But even though I won’t get to experience those things first hand, apps are now available to let me take a peek through history. Bless the day smartphones were invented! Just a few taps and swipes and ta-daaaa! That’s the beauty of smartphones – they have that intriguing capability to perform a lot of things. I don’t even have to understand how they work; I just sap up the glory they provide. Convenient, don’t you think? Now forget the time machine. We can now go back in time using our mobile devices, thanks to apps like Historypin (!

Historypin is basically a digital photo archive where photographs, videos, and even audio recordings, can be overlaid using virtual pins on Google Maps. Historypin is more on the historical, informative side. Speaking of history, I recall that in high school, I didn’t fare well in history class because back then I thought it was boring and it always tested my memory. It was agonizing having to memorize dates and the corresponding events! Historypin, however, is not about dates, but about connecting the present with the past through the use of photos and maps combined. What makes it more interesting is that, it lets you experience local history while also allowing you to interact with different people and seeing the world in a different light through the photos they capture. It is undoubtedly a great tool to learn and share stories. Okay, so how exactly does it work? This short introductory video explains what we need to know about the app.

Aside from Historypin, there are also other apps that we can try. One is WhatWasThere (, which is an iPhone app. Another one is called Sepia Town (, which is available on desktop and has no mobile version, but works just as well. 

Here’s an example of how NTU Libraries integrated a repository of digital images of mural paintings of Bagan Temples constructed between the 11th and 18th centuries using Google Maps and WordPress. –Joan


In 2009, Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana) caused a lot of destruction in the Philippines, but was unable to dampen the Filipino spirit. Captured on WhatWasThere is a glimpse of how people from Quiapo, Manila turned an underpass full of flood water into a giant, free-for-all swimming pool:

What Was There PH

Libraries can use HistoryPin, WhatWasThere, and other applications to post pictures of historical moments in the library–such as inaugurations, some important exhibits, VIP visits, parties, among others–and pin them on the exact location of the event on the virtual map. It will be like a map full of #ThrowbackThursday photographs! –Karryl


  1. Download and install the Historypin app (iOS, Android, Windows) to your smartphone. Tip: Login using a Gmail account to be able to fully experience its features.
  2. View historic photographs near your current location and/or any location of your choosing.
  3. Familiarize yourself with the app including the type of information included in the pins.
  4. Compare the experience when you use Historypin on a desktop computer.


  1. Browse photo collections uploaded by other users. Here are some collections for your perusing pleasure:
  2. Try pinning a random travel photo from your phone. Not sure how to pin a photo? Check this tutorial out:
  3. Explore other similar apps: WhatWasThere (iPhone app) and Sepia Town (no mobile app).
  4. Just play around with the apps and see how these tools can be relevant to library services.


  1. Capture a photo of a local landmark. You can also scan old photographs, but please take note of the source.
  2. Upload the photo to the map using Historypin, WhatWasThere or Sepia Town, whichever floats your boat. Tip: When pinning a picture to a map, don’t forget to attribute! If possible, include links to the original source. #copyrightissues
  3. Find a photo on the map and try overlaying that photo with the one taken on that spot with your phone. This is called Historypin Repeat, having photos that other users have taken using the app.
  4. Try to create a virtual tour or photo collection using a theme (e.g. libraries and museums in your city). You can use photos pinned by other users, but include the source.
  5. Take a screenshot of your pin and share it with us via Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #23mthingsphsg.

Remix from the original 23 Mobile things :
23 Mobile Things – Thing 5
ANZ 23 Mobile things – Thing 5

Shielski Montenegro Shie Montenegro is a Reference Librarian at the Rizal Library, Ateneo de Manila University and has been in the profession for almost five years now. When she’s not at work facilitating research consultations and providing information assistance, she is out there creating something artsy and forever dreaming of the sea.

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