Take the Old with the New

SF Public LibraryA new history tool combines the insight of San Francisco’s tech community with the value of public data.  OldSF, a website built by Dan Vanderkam and designed by Raven Keller, takes the San Francisco Public Library’s Historical Photo Collection and geocodes the images onto a Google Map. The Library’s full collection contains about 40,000 images, with about half of those containing enough geographic information to be placed on a map.  OldSF currently has geocoded about 13,000 images.  All you have to do is click a dot on the map and one or several photos from that location appear to the right.  Click the image and you see a larger version.

Vanderkam has added a lot of value to the images by placing them on a map, and a lot of richness to the story of San Francisco’s neighborhoods.  He was actually inspired to build the site because he found a mislabeled photograph among the collection when looking for his apartment.  He discovered that the photo was actually taken from his roof, and it is gems like this that many will discover by poking around his new site.  The image above is a photograph of Dolores Park from 1972; the sign reads “Park Closed to Public on School Days.”  Anyone who has been to Dolores Park recently probably has a very difficult time imaging that park ever being so empty.

- Terra Curtis