Time Travel is Real (Sort of)

Name a show with time travel as a theme. I’ve likely seen it.  A book with time as a plot. I’ve likely read it.  There is something fascinating about the whole idea of actually stepping back into the past.  Our photos let us peek into that realm but there is always something missing.  We can see the outside of the house, but not the inside or vice versa.

Years ago, I worked with image collections at a historical society. I came to know picture holdings in various archives and libraries in the area too. There was no collaborative project bringing the holdings together.  Now there is.  My new project brings together image collections for the city of Providence. It’s no secret that I love my home city. Now I have proof.


The new site is Oldpvd.com. Anyone can use it.  It’s free.

oldpvd.com lets you see the city as it looked in the past.


Libraries, archives, and private collectors can upload their images. Watermarks identity the owner of the shared image.

Each building is a marker “pinned” on a historical map. I love old maps almost as much as pictures. Right now, there are three historical maps on the site so that users can move through time using the slider at the top of the screen. Since all buildings are linked to a date of construction, as you move into the past, markers disappear. You can see the structures that stood in a particular time.

Scans of things, buildings, and even people can be added to the markers. Videos guide users through the process of participating in oldpvd.com.

Searching is by words that appear in the title, caption, or description for each marker.  Users can share the information they know by adding to the comment sections for each marker. Perhaps your grandfather used to tell a story about his years working in a local factory, you can add that story to the appropriate marker.

Give it a try. Search my favorite. “Crown Hotel”  Click the blue marker that appears on the map. You’ll see images of the inside and the outside of the hotel.

What’s the Program?

About a year and a half ago, I contacted Mike Bronner of Genealabs.com with an idea. What if it were possible to bring together visuals in one place.

“On a map,” he asked.

“Yes, exactly,” I replied.

The end result is a platform that’s adaptable to other cities and towns as well.  Image files of anything can be pinned to a map. Think places, people, and even artifacts (if you know the location).  It’s a fresh way to look at history in time and place.

Everytime I demo the site for local folks the first word I hear is, “WOW.”  It brings a smile to my face. I think of oldpvd.com as a tool for preservationists, historians, and anyone interested in local history. I think school groups will find it useful too. Now imagine you could do this for your location.

The program is called Chronocharts.com.  Send me an email. Let me know what you think of oldpvd.com.  Mike and I are hoping we can set up sites for organizations and projects as well.  It’s a product we had a lot of fun creating. 

It’s about as close to time travel as we can get (for now).