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Discover Phildelphia’s Past on Top of its Present With PhillyHistory AR

Adriane Goetz May 20, 2011










A 1963 photo of 4625 Springfield Ave. in Philadelphia overlaid onto the present location.

With each cool new history layer, we are reminded that Augmented Reality is a great way to display historical photos and information previously hidden away in government archives.



Currently on the Layar platform, you can see San Francisco’s historic Market Street before and after the massive earthquake in 1906 that forever changed the landscape, view the Berlin Wall as it stood between 1961 and 1989, uncover Civil War history and more.



The newest historical addition to the Layar platform, PhillyHistory, uses Augmented Reality to merge Philadelphia’s past with present.



Using content from the Philadelphia Department of Records’ online database (PhillyHistory.org), you can access nearly 90,000 historic images of the city, 500 of which are pinned to the current landscape in virtually their exact location in AR. Of those 500 images, 20 also contain additional information about the places in the photos created by the editors of The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia as well as local scholars.







PhillyHistory App

This massive project was made possible by a Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The organization rewarded this grant to the City of Philadelphia Department of Records (DOR) in order to fund a research project that would investigate the use of Augmented Reality in displaying historic photographs as overlays on a view of the current landscape.



The DOR partnered with Philadelphia-based company Azavea to conduct the research on Augmented Reality and build the mobile phone applications. The two organizations published the results of this research in a free white paper available for download here. The paper also serves as a valuable resource for anyone interested in building on the Layar platform.



The PhillyHistory app is available in the iTunes Store as well as the Android Market, but you can also access it from inside Layar via the PhillyHistory AR layer.









Three phases in the evolution of the PhillyHistory layer

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