Enlighten Launches Online Photographic History of the World

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WhatWasThere.com asks users to "Put history in its place"

"It's a fun and interactive online experience, but above all it provides real social value as a reference to our ever-evolving geographic landscape."

If you’ve ever wondered what once occupied the parcel of land on which your home, office, favorite restaurant, or local coffee shop now sits, you could benefit from the use of a virtual time machine. WhatWasThere.com has launched with the intention of being just that. A new endeavor from Enlighten Ventures, a sister company of award-winning Ann Arbor, MI-based digital agency Enlighten, the site leverages a powerful combination of Google Street View and crowdsourcing to allow users to view familiar streets and landmarks as they appeared in the past.

"Our goal is to provide a platform for capturing the history of everyday places before that history disappears," says Steve Glauberman, founder and CEO of Enlighten. "Like Wikipedia, WhatWasThere.com employs the knowledge and participation of users across the Internet to create something that benefits everyone—individuals, historical societies, libraries, schools and universities alike."

Users can participate in the project by uploading any photograph that they can tie to a city, from their childhood homes to the hotels, libraries, museums, theatres, shops, churches and schools that may have served as the backdrop to their lives. All uploaded images will be preserved online as part of a community-curated visual history. Anyone who browses the site, which offers free and open access to all users, can fade between a historical photograph and the current Google Street View to experience the evolution of a place over time. For those who want to explore vintage photos on-the-go, the WhatWasThere iPhone app offers an "augmented reality" experience of the site’s data by layering the historical photos on top of the iPhone's camera view.

Enlighten hopes that by inviting users to upload their own photographs, WhatWasThere ultimately will grow to become the largest database of geographically tagged historical photographs in the world. The platform already features data from New York, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Detroit, and Ann Arbor, and other cities are being added or enhanced daily. Additional features and improvements will be introduced in the months to come.

"This site provides a great opportunity to connect young and old as they place or browse historic photos," Glauberman says. "It's a fun and interactive online experience, but above all it provides real social value as a reference to our ever-evolving geographic landscape."

WhatWasThere can be viewed online at http://www.whatwasthere.com. The WhatWasThere iPhone app is available from iTunes.

About Enlighten
Enlighten (http://www.enlighten.com) is an award-winning digital marketing, online advertising, web development, data analytics and strategic consulting firm building innovative online experiences for major brands including Hunter Douglas, Richmond American Homes, John Frieda®, Jergens®, Bioré®, illy caffè, Olympic Paint and Stain, Fruit2O, Jimmy John’s, HealthMedia, Comerica, Johnson & Johnson and more. Based in Ann Arbor, the independent digital marketing agency was founded in 1983.

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Tessa Wegert
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