Occupying spaces

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Last week Occupy London was forced to vacate St Paul’s Churchyard after their five month occupation. The aftermath has raised some interesting questions about what and how museum curators should start collecting materials from an event which will soon start to be interpreted and analysed through a historical lens.

One thing that particularly struck me was the challenge that all archiving institutions are facing: how to capture and store born-digital materials. Especially from an event like Occupy London where so much of it’s communication, organisation and identity was digital rather than physical.

But what I found most interesting was that this protest, which has prompted so much and debate and is now being collected for posterity, had temporarily occupied a physical space. Yet no physical trace of it remains in the place that was so central to it. This is the cases for many spaces in our landscapes where people have come together and something has happened – a protest, a street party, a meeting. Sometimes these spaces are marked by a plaque or passed down in local stories, but more often than not they go unknown or unnoticed.

And this is one of the things that excites me most about Historypin – the ability to re-populate spaces with content and stories that show the multitude of moments that have happened in our public spaces. And through the Historypin app, to be able to vividly re-create and explore these moments whilst standing in the same spot, hovering in the fasinating gap between past and present.

Even more importantly, I think Historypin offers an opportunity to capture and preserve moments and stories of our shared spaces that might otherwise be lost. Occupy London will always be part of the history books, because it is recognised in its time to be worth paying attention to. But often it is the things that seem least noteworthy that can be the most valuable. It could be this photo in St Paul’s Churchyard, rather than the one at the top of this post, which excites the historians of the future.