In the last post I highlighted that armchair historical sleuthing could be undertaken during the inclement weather. I wrote about Windows shareware Paint.net, and how you could use it alongside website Insight Mapping to spot and highlight changes in the cityscape, alongside remnants of the past. In this post we’re going to delve into the third dimension, and introduce photographs into the mix.
I’m sure we’ve all used Google maps to identify a destination we need to visit, scrolling along the morphing street view to plot out our future journey. I do the same with historical research. Ultimately, I prefer to use my own original photographs, but there’s really no need as Google has made such a huge number of images visible online. I first use the map view to identify roughly the same area I found on Insight, then recall the features I found noteworthy that should still be visible nowadays. I then zoom into the street view and ‘walk’ around the area, finding these features. I take screen grabs of images that capture the features, paste them into new images on Paint.net, and save these images using numbers to differentiate them; Market Square 1, Market Square 2 and so on. For each image, I go back to my map document and — on the ‘markers’ Layer — put a corresponding number roughly indicating the spot where the image bearing the same number was grabbed.
Having created image documents illustrating the contemporary map view, the historical map view, and contemporary street view images, the next stage is my favourite; finding historical images. I visit Picture the Past, a vast online archive of historical images from the east midlands, and carry-out a Search on the street name(s) or building name(s) relevant to the maps. If you plan to use the images commercially you need to contact the website to organise ‘clean’ images (without watermarks), but for casual and private research, choose Zoom and then right click and Save the images. Some of the images are accompanied by text with historical information on the image. I copy and past such text and save it in a WordPad document.
Following the steps above and in the first post, it is possible to establish a great deal of (primarily visual) information on your subject. I organise this information in folders bearing the name of the building or street, making it easy to reference in the future. The Paint.net image serves as a visual index to the information.
Nothing can replace the joy of visiting a modern place and casting your imagination back into the past to imagine what went on there in a bygone era, but if you’re housebound through health and family reasons or just an aversion to winter weather, you can still conduct very useful and revealing research using the methods described here.