Albany: Then and Now app

albany: then and now app android screenshots tim varney

Screenshots from the Android version.

This is good: Tim Varney has created a mobile app -- Albany: Then and Now -- that combines a map of Albany with historical photos and background. As he explained in an email:

The basic idea is that you can walk around downtown and find a spot where a photographer stood 100 (or so) years ago. You can then view the streetscape from his vantagepoint and visually see the changes that have occurred.

Here's a bit more detail from the app's iTunes page:

Make your way to downtown Albany. Open the "Albany: Then & Now" app on your mobile phone and click on the "View Map" button. On the map you'll see red arrows which represent the more than 130 historical photographs in our collection. Each arrow shows where sometime in the past a photographer stood and took a picture of the city's landscape. Most of the photographs are around 100 years old.
Using the map as a guide, walk to one of the marked locations. The center of the arrow indicates where the photographer stood. The direction of the arrow shows which way the photographer was facing. Do your best to stand in the same spot and face the same direction as the photographer did.
On the map, press the red arrow. Voilà! The image that you're seeing is exactly what the photographer saw years ago while standing in the same location! For more details about the photograph, press the "Details" button.

There's a video of the app in use after the jump.

The app is available for the iPhone and iPad, as well as Android. And it's free.

So, what prompted Tim to make this app?

Tim's day job is as a partner at Troy Web Consulting. He says he had been looking around for a project to serve as a demonstration of a development framework that can create apps for both iOS (iPhones and iPads) and Android (the other dominant mobile phone operating system) from the same source code (which can save a lot of time). He continues (link added):

When the Albany History Room [at the APL] was renovated, they made their large collection of historic photographs easily accessible to the public (which I didn't even know they had). I thought that this would be a interesting and interactive way to make them available to everyone.
I spent a number of Monday nights at the library with [Albany city historian] Tony Opalka going through photographs and scanning them. I spent a few weekends writing and researching the content with the help of others. The easy part was the coding which I did in the evenings. It probably took about 2 months from start to finish once I got access to the photos.

Tim tells us that about 75 percent of the photos are from the Albany Public Library, and the rest are from the Albany County Hall of Records, the NYS Archives, and the Library of Congress. He says he's working on photos from other sources, too.

Also created by Tim: The recent map of Albany vacant properties.


Now, THIS might just be the incentive I need to finally get an iPhone.

What a cool project.

Great stuff.

This is so neat. New favorite app!

ooh I really love this idea. Hoping he'll extend it to New would be so fun to be down there and use it ala "this super cool hipster/nouveau riche bar/club/boutique/hair salon used to be a slaughterhouse/sweatshop/flophouse/Lou Reed slept here" etc.

Cool! I *just* got a smartphone (been shackled to a stupidphone for years), I'm looking forward to trying out the Android version. This could be really fun and interesting to use in local history scavenger hunt type games for kids too.

Great fun on the iPad! Would love to see this app do Troy.

This app works very well on a Nexus 7 tablet.

I just installed this to my droid. Awesome!

Teachers take note -- this app an incredible resource.

Nice work, Tim!

Like the app? Come meet the developer, Tim Varney; Chris Ward from the NYS Archives; and folks from Historic Albany Foundation and the Albany Institute of History & Art at the "Archives Month App Launch Party" on 10/18 at the University Club!

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