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Panel: Virtual Cities/Digital Histories

Allen, Robert C., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,

Smith, Natasha, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,

Lach, Pamella, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,

Marciano, Richard, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,

Speed, Chris, Edinburgh College of Art,

Presner, Todd, UCLA,

Ethington, Philip, Univ. of Southern California,

Shepard, David, UCLA,

Hou, Chien-Yi, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, United States of America,

Johanson, Christopher, UCLA,

Going to the Show and Main Street, Carolina

Robert C. Allen, Natasha Smith, Pamella Lach; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill



Going to the Show documents and illuminates the experience of movies and moviegoing in North Carolina from the introduction of projected motion pictures (1896) to the end of the silent film era (circa 1930). Through its innovative use of more than 1000 digitally stitched and georeferenced Sanborn® Fire Insurance maps of forty-five towns and cities between 1896 and 1922, the project situates early moviegoing within the experience of urban life in the state's big cities and small towns. Supporting its documentation of more than 1300 movie venues across 200 communities is a searchable archive of thousands of contemporaneous artifacts: newspaper ads and articles, photographs, postcards, city directories, and 150 original architectural drawings.

Main Street, Carolina (in development) is a digital history toolkit designed to allow cultural heritage organizations in North Carolina to preserve, document, and share the history of their downtowns by creating and managing digital content and displaying it on interactive historic maps.


Philip J. Ethington, Univ. of Southern California; Todd Presner, Christopher Johanson, David Shepard, UCLA


Built on the idea that every past is a place, HyperCities is a digital research and educational platform for exploring, learning about, and interacting with the layered histories of city and global spaces. Developed though collaboration between UCLA and USC, the fundamental idea behind HyperCities is that all stories take place somewhere and sometime; they become meaningful when they interact and intersect with other stories. Using Google Maps and Google Earth, HyperCities essentially allows users to go back in time to create and explore the historical layers of city spaces in an interactive, hypermedia environment. A HyperCity is a real city overlaid with a rich array of geo-temporal information, ranging from urban cartographies and media representations to family genealogies and the stories of the people and diverse communities who live and lived there.


Richard Marciano, Chien-Yi Hou; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


T-RACES (Testbed for the Redlining Archives of California's Exclusionary Spaces) presents Residential Security Maps created by the Home Owners Loan Corp in the 1930s for eight cities in California along with supporting documentation. These maps categorized specific areas in cities according to four color-coded categories based on racial, ethnic and economic characteristics of residents and potential home buyers. These so-called “redlining” maps were used by local financial institutions to make home mortgage decisions and had a significant impact on the fate of urban neighborhoods for decades. The site allows users to view the maps, query a wide range of supporting data, and download KML files for use with Google Earth.

Walking Through Time and Tales of Things

Chris Speed, Edinburgh College of Art



Walking Through Time is a smart phone web application that allows architectural historians, conservationists and tourists to download historical maps of Edinburgh when standing in a specific location and to annotate them. They can walk through real space whilst following a map from 200 years ago (for example) and tag and attach links to the map that offer historical and contextual information.

Tales of Things is part of a research project called TOTeM that will explore social memory in the emerging culture of the Internet of Things. Researchers from across the UK have provided this site as a platform for users to add stories to their own treasured objects and to connect to other people who share similar experiences. This will enable future generations to have a greater understanding of the object’s past and offers a new way of preserving social history. Content will depend on real people’s stories, which can be geo-located through an on-line map of the world where participants can track their object even if they have passed it on. The object will also be able to update previous owners on its progress through a live Twitter feed which will be unique to each object entered into the system.