Digital Project Update: Mapping DC’s Alley History

My original goal with this project was to create a tour for the history of Washington DC’s alleyways, and this goal hasn’t changed; however, I have narrowed down my tour’s focus on Capitol Hill. I am still using HistoryPin for my tour (as originally planned) and it’s been interesting to experiment with this platform. In addition to using historical images, I’m also including other sources such as newspapers and insurance maps. I think giving users the chance to look at a variety of sources and images will create a more compelling tour experience.

Overall, I have gathered a lot of great information from my research and have been able to collect some great visuals to use on this tour. What I am in the process of doing now is getting it on HistoryPin and organizing it in a way that benefits the narrative of my tour.

What’s Next?

Continue to research what every day life was like for the communities who lived in these alley homes. I have some good resources I’m using for this part of my tour; however, I haven’t found sources left behind from the people who lived in these communities. Part of my tour will address this, because I think it’s important to recognize who is included and who is absent in our history.

Finalize the tour’s path and the alleys I want to focus on. I am still in the process of deciding what alleys to include on the tour. I have a few essential ones that are already on HistoryPin, but they are quite a distance away from one another, so I’m trying to set a path between them that makes sense.

Decide on how long I want each tour entry to be. I don’t want to bog down my users with really long entries to read, so this is something else that I am working on. I like the length I have now for the entries I have put up already and think that I’ll continue with this amount of text. I have a section in the tour’s about page that includes resources I am using, so I will most likely encourage my users to check those out if they are interested in learning more.

4 Replies to “Digital Project Update: Mapping DC’s Alley History”

  1. Hi Melyssa! I think its really neat that you used the tour function on historypin. My map didn’t lend itself to that function, but I was really interested in it. I really like your Terrace Court location where the picture matches up pretty exactly to the streetview. I think the current length of each location works, but I think it depends on how long you make your overall tour – if its longer, you might want to make each caption shorter to balance it out.

  2. Melyssa, I thoroughly enjoyed checking out your history pin project! I like how each pin has its own story and character. Also, it was helpful that you provided attributions and links for each pin. The only piece I’m curious about is the placement of the pictures on the screen. Can they be moved to the side or corner of the pin so the user can get a full view of the alley or was it intentional to place pictures in the center?

  3. Hi Melyssa, this looks like a great start! I agree with Katie’s comment—I think if you’re going to try to get more pins in there, shorter captions would be in order. Part of the reason they appear a lot longer than I think they actually are is that the font on the Historypin site is weirdly large. I think it might lend itself to shorter captions. But I’m not sure how different that would look on mobile!

  4. The tour is looking great. You have some really neat photos in there and the inclusion of the newspaper article is neat too. In digging around in HistoryPin’s FAQs, I was able to find that they do mention that they pulled down their existing app while they are working on developing a new app ( ). I think that must have happened in relatively recent history, as I know students used the app last year.

    In looking for more photos, it looks like the Library of Congress prints and photographs division may have some more potential resources for you. This search could be a useful starting point often photographs in those sets are part of lots, so you might also navigate around some of the related photos for some that might just not have the terms alley dwelling associated with them but might be relevant.

    Overall, the text is working well, I think you’ve zeroed in on a geographic area that is very doable for taking a walk. As you add in more of the tour spots, you might want to then go ahead and try walking the route or getting some friends together as beta testers for your tour.

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