"Then and now" with an augmented reality twist

National Archives' AR contest puts old photos in a modern setting.

The National Archives is running one of the geekiest competitions to ever originate in the nation’s capital: an augmented reality photo contest. “Use an archival image and mash it with the everyday world for a unique perspective on history today.” The results are likely to be amazing.


The contest is hosted at Challenge.gov, the online platform for crowdsourcing national challenges, competitions and open innovation prizes for the United States government.

Here’s the contest description:

The National Archives has introduced an exciting new way to use our historic photograph collections: History Happens Here! augments reality and combines the old with the new in the same frame, giving the viewer a unique perspective on how our country has evolved over time. Combining elements of a past time within the everyday world, History Happens Here! allows you to see history in your reality.

Anyone (including NARA staff) can choose a photo from the National Archives’ Archival Research Catalog (archives.gov) and capture the photo within the frame of the current landscape. Participants will post the photo to the History Happens Here! NARA Photo Contest group on Flickr. One winner and nineteen finalists will be featured in a History Happens Here! postcard book which will be available through the National Archives gift shop and online.

To get involved, read the rules and then join the 2010 NARA Photo Contest Flickr group. There are already a dozen mashups there that each provide a window into our collective American history.

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  • http://govplayers.com Isaac Barnes

    Good for them for trying to get the web involved in their process.

  • http://meyerweb.com/ Eric Meyer

    Has anyone pointed them at the “Looking Into The Past” pool on Flickr (http://www.flickr.com/groups/lookingintothepast/pool/)? Because they’ve been doing exactly this for quite a while now.

  • http://challenge.gov/NARA/86-augmented-reality-photo-contest Mary Krakowiak

    Hi Eric,

    Yes, the flickr group “Looking into the Past” is one of our inspirations, along with the Museum of London’s “Street Museum” (http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/MuseumOfLondon/Resources/app/you-are-here-app/index.html).

    At the National Archives we have millions of photographs, some from famous photographers (like Ansel Adams, Mathew Brady, and Dorthea Lange) who worked at one time for the government.

    Because we have so many digitized, we’d love to see what inspiring mashups folks can create!


    Mary Krakowiak
    National Archives and Records Administration