Great slide presentation (you can play in your browser) with archive images of the precursor products that led to to the development of mobile. The author uses the history to illustrate his prediction of the likely future boom in Mobile. This is about much more than technology history. It is a mini visual essay using data journalism in action and providing greater insight by the power of images with very few words. It is both refreshing and intriguing how the artefacts and objects just by the visual reference seem to communicate so much.

How can we use visual tools for communicating complex information and ideas for our history projects? Here is the presentation do browse you can play it in your browser and then take a look at a few bulleted points about how you can use tools to empower your projects…


Objects and Artefacts used to narrate a timeline and articulate or narrate history
The ultimate use of objects and artefacts to succinctly illustrate and narrate our history must be the recent History of the World in 100 Objects which was broadcast by the BBC and followed up by the book. The curators selected just 100 objects as a representative sample to enlighten us on their perspective on the history of the world. This can be a good dinner party topic too with family and friends.
Can we use this approach to distil the history of our families lives or as a powerful summary of a place we are researching?
  • In family history we tend to focus on pictures of the people. But if I think about it, I can easily start to put together a series of images  of objects which with very few words might give an overview and insight to my historic view and connection with the history of my family.
  • Local History has got to be a candidate for this as well. If there is a place that is important to your project, do you have say 6 or a 12 objects that might visually summarise why historically this place is important to you, your team?
  • Our focus on the visual power of maps is really not that different is it? If you can relate the points on the map to the objects, again without words, there is quite  a lot that the viewer can think about and glean from the resource you have created. History Pin is not really much more than that plus narrative.
  • What if we can link the image of the object to the map an the timeline, still with very few words? Is that the essence of how we can reduce the verbage? More questions than answers but we are experimenting with the tool kits available to see how easily this can be done with laptop or mobile technology and without the need for the ‘geek sqad.’
  • There is lot we can learn from the Data Journalism that has emerged in the last few years on the basis of ‘the numbers don’t lie’ It is also reflected in a good maxim on which the Guardian Newspaper has tried to subscribe ‘ Facts are Sacred…’ opinion and commentary are merely supposition. Somehow with history and in particular family history there can be a lot of clouding of the bare facts. No doubt fuelled by our emotional desire to understand more about who we are and where we have come from. But that is a whole new subject we can explore later. In essence focus on an evidence based approach which should always be our starting point.

Actions speak louder than words, so how can we try this out?

  • Can you summarise the history of your family, place or special interest starting with pictures of 12 objects?
  • Do those objects relate to a specific location? (Geographers would have us believe that more than 80% of all information has a location based element.)
  • How can you easily collate and present those images and use them to communicate your history?
  • Well what follows is a fistful of ideas of ways you might take this forward. The ability to visualise data is an essential element of of what we want to achieve with Intriguing History to enable us to visualise and map our history, make connections and seek new evidence based insights which we can test and explore going forward.
  • We are looking for tools that enable us to connect facts images,locations and dates, that is it in a nutshell but here we want a small data set to top-off our mountain of data and to enable us to start to mine deeper into that data.
  • It would be interesting to be able to simply navigate from a few visual starting points and captions wouldn’t it? So why not have a go!

Your fistful of ideas to test out whether you can signpost your history with a summary set of objects: consider the issues below and then try a couple of the approaches and see what works best for you. You don’t need a website to publish there are free tools and platforms available for doing that. We are selecting tools that require minimal effort and maximum ease of distribution with no cost other than a bit of time.

Consider upfront:

  • Are your images digital pictures? 
    • If they are not already can you take digital pictures of them, or scan existing photos?
    • If they are documents a scan will be best.
    • File formats JPEG or PNG or similar, preferably not PDF if you want to return the image on the page rather than as a download and also want it to be accessible for Google Search results better scanned?
  • Do you want to publish?
    • Only on paper (you can still prepare using some of the tool kit ideas below.
    • Online open to all or only a restricted circulation list?
  • Who is your audience and are they online?
    • Are they  known or unknown to you?
    • Do you want to attract an audience via the search engines?
    • What words for search aare people most likely to search on that are relevant to your content, the particular image and the scope of your history project? The search engine can’t currently apart from face recognition inside the photo services detect what is on the image file. it is only the text file name and descriptions (snippets) that google/Bing etc can read.
  •  Which objects and artefacts to select?
    • Do the objects conjure a range of connections and key aspects of your project, place or family?
    • Will their significance be capable of summary in just a few words?
    • Is the nature of the object clear by the imae or does it need key words to define it?
    • If you were needing to verbally account the summary of what has been significant to you and the history of your family could you talk for about 10 minutes without reference to a text or notes from those images?
    • Looking at the objects would additional simple data help others understand their relative context:
      • where they are from, perhaps as a pin-point and popup box on a map?
      • the date of the object as either a single year or range of years?
      • will the organisation of the objects in a sequence help, chronologically and/or reflecting some other replationship between the history that connects those events?
The options and tool kit ideas: we can explore the how to use these tools in future posts screencasts and downloadable guides for now here are some options.
  1. Paper: a document with images on pages, that can be simply annotated using a standard word-processing app like Word or Google Docs, or slide package such as Powerpoint or Google Presentations. You can then just print at a quality you choose
  2. Simple Picture Album that can be published across the net either open to all or by specific sharing to a specific audience, goup or list of connected persons. Examples of the Pictures approach can be implemented using Google Picasa, Flickr or Facebook Photos. Depending on which service you use you can determine who can see your pictures name the album and make it accessible via web link /url emailed to your audience. You can add a description of the collection or album to make it more easily found with the right key words by your prospective audience via a search function. You can add date , location and key word tags to help the search across meta data on the internet. You can organise the data to display by certain limited attributes within the album. You can use links for each image to subsequently reference in a timeline or similar tool or popup when an image is accessed from a map.
  3. Pinterest: a relatively new but picture driven approach which uses the metaphor of a pin board so that you can organise and share images across the web with anyone or a sub-selected group. The images are literally grouped on a pinboard, here is a very simple example  Whilst the concept is very simply it is also an intriguing resource and provides a point and click smplicity to curating researching and sourcing as well as publishing images. You can easily share your likes on Facebook as teasers into your deeper content and project. Head-turning images are great for awakening the neurons in our busy brains.
  4. Powerpoint for a Slide Presentation published on Slideshare or similar: avoid if you can making it a download, better access is controlled by login but the visual image is easily and quickly displayed. Powerpoint for restricted circulation by email, or uploaded to something like Google Docs GDocs (becoming Google Drive) is another. The tools are graphic, you can use a varierty of connection lines. You cant automatically map but you could overlay on a simple graphic. The initial example here is on Slideshare. The basic account is free and you can share documents publicly. You can use tag key words for brief descriptions and enable users to comment on your objects.
  5. Google Maps with Google Picasa or similar to Create Your Map: future post will show you how but using my maps in conjunction with linked photos, popup boxes and minimal text is a great way to bring your images together. Single login for both services means you can control who has access and if you are a bit ambitious we can show you how tog et these mapped data sets into Google Earth and Fusion tables.
  6. Digital Timelines: there are a range of tools available, some don’t provide the right balance of ease of creation, editing sharing and access but we are currently experimenting ourselves with a few tools. If you start with your History in a Dozen Objects with one of these approaches, we will then be doing webinars and screencasts to show you how to integrate these tools with a timeline in the near future.

So hopefully a little food for the eyes as well as the mind on how to make your history project even more interesting and engaging for you to research, share and think-upon to kick-off the next steps in your voyage of digital discovery. Screencasts and more detailed guides and downloadable pdfs are in our plans, so watch this site for future updates.


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