What Was There?

What Was ThereLately I’ve been having way too much fun on a new website called What Was There. The idea is simple: take GoogleMaps street view and layer it with old photographs. In the site’s own words, it’s like a “virtual time machine of sorts that allows users to navigate familiar streets as they appeared in the past.”

The coolest part is the fade slider, which lets you slowly fade from the old image to the new and back again. Somewhere in the middle, you get this ghostly image of people from 100 years ago walking down today’s streets. It’s enough to give a history buff goosebumps.

The content is entirely crowdsourced so it relies on people like you and me to scrounge through old family photo albums and antique postcard collections, and upload them to the site. Uploading, tagging and placing a photo is really easy and takes only a few minutes.

I’ve been adding Toronto street views ca 1900 – 1915 from my postcard collection, like this view of Massey Hall around 1905 or this peek down a tree-lined Carlton Street around 1908.

I’ve also been exploring the images other people have uploaded. I think this one of horse-mounted hunters riding down a muddy single-lane Bathurst Street is my favourite. The contrast with today’s view is phenomenal.

What are some of your favourite street scenes?

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One Response to “What Was There?”

  1. Debbie Rodgers on April 4th, 2011 6:30 pm

    What a cool site! I missed the fade feature on my first visit – that really enhances the experience. Thanks for telling us about it.

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