Google Sidewalk Labs has mapped Toronto with 30,000 historical photos 

Mar 21 2018, 1:54 pm

Have you ever wondered what originally stood where your condo is located?

Or what your favourite streets in Toronto used to look like?

Well, now you can find older images from the Toronto Archives through a new tool created by the folks at Google Sidewalk Labs called Old Toronto.

Old Toronto is an open-source, open-data map tool that maps more than 30,000 (and growing) historic city photographs from the City of Toronto Archives, which currently holds more than 1.7 million photographs dating back to 1856.

The tool is extremely user-friendly (and distracting). All you need to do is search for a location and then you can browse through the archived images from the specific area.

This is all possible through geocoding, a process where the creators of OldTO used the titles of the photographs in the archives to assign the image a latitude and longitude.

According to Sidewalk Labs, the process of geocoding “makes it possible to map the old images onto Toronto’s current street network, creating a new way to explore the collection based on geography, and hopefully making the city archive’s valuable holdings more accessible to a wide audience.”

Old Toronto

Old Toronto, Sidewalk Labs

Old Toronto

Old Toronto, Sidewalk Labs

When you click on an image, any information contained in the description of the archival holding, including (when available) the title, date, condition, and any copyright restrictions will appear.

This helps give the user a betterer understanding of the history of the image.

Old Toronto

Old Toronto, Sidewalk Labs

“As we think about the kinds of digital tools that help people develop, navigate, and maintain neighborhoods and cities, the ability to organize information geographically and by time comes up again and again as a critical requirement,” wrote Dan Vanderkam, a Software Developer for Sidewalk Labs, in a blog post about the project.

“Old Toronto relies on some of the same technologies that can support a future neighborhood, and as we continue to build new prototypes, we will use them to explore the digital infrastructure needed for more substantial applications.”

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