A moment in time
Imagine walking down the street and having an instant vision of the past as if you had hurtled back through a time tunnel.
Now that vision is possible, thanks to the technology of augmented reality, and a local Historypin project sparked by Cairns man Cheyenne Morrison.
“It’s like a time machine in an iPhone,” Cheyenne says.
When the Historypin app is downloaded to a smart phone, photos Cheyenne is collecting from the Cairns Museum and the State Library of Queensland will merge with Google Street View to produce images of the past and present meshed together.
Historypin was developed by a global not-for-profit group We Are What We Do as a digital time machine with Google, and as a platform for people to share the history of places around the world.
Cairns Regional Council has an app already, which is a heritage tour of the city, but it is not part of the historypin project.
Gathering the images for the Cairns historypin project, Cairns Time Machine, is a time-consuming task.
“It took ages to collect images and research the history,” Cheyenne says.
He works on two to three sites each day researching and uploading photographs.
Apart from presenting an interesting historical angle of Cairns, Cheyenne has a more serious reason for taking on the local Historypin project that he started in November, 2012.
“What really compelled me to start the Cairns Time Machine project was when I attended the opening of the new Cairns Cruise Liner Terminal,” Cheyenne says.
“This was created from the old Trinity Wharf in Cairns and looking around the port area I was really shocked at how many old buildings in Cairns had been pulled down for redevelopment.
“The destruction of the Cairns Yacht Club was the worst example which created widespread anger in the community.
“However, many other historic buildings have been lost due to redevelopment, or are in danger of being lost unless we appreciate their heritage.”
Cheyenne, who is a real estate agent and president of the islomaniacs (island lovers) society, plans to document the present buildings of Cairns, as well as those that have been lost, to encourage the people of Cairns to fight to maintain their heritage, which he believes is not in conflict with the nature of the city.
“Key West in Florida is a tourist town but they protect their heritage,” Cheyenne says.
“We’ve destroyed ours.”
Cheyenne stresses the importance of the Cairns wharf and blogs about it on Historypin, as well as writing about it as guest blogger on the Queensland State Library’s website.
“The wharf was originally established in response to the goldmining boom in North Queensland in the 1870s, and the existing wharf structures were built between 1910 and 1925,” Cheyenne writes.
“The port has played an integral part in the development of the primary industries in Cairns, such as the timber industry of the 1880s onwards and primary industries such as fishing and sugar production.
“The area played an important part of Australia’s defence in World War I and World War II, and is a long-running part of Cairns’ growth as a tourist hub, providing essential infrastructure for the local fishing and tourist enterprises of North Queensland.”
Cheyenne couldn’t be more suited to the research and photograph pinning task he has taken on.
A professed lover of “vintage things”, he says he has acquired many antiques.
He is already a great pinner of pretty pictures; his Pinterest cover page (Islomaniac) says his adventurer’s study is “adorned with artefacts from my past expeditions, full of antique maps, and pictures documenting the people and places I have encountered, plus ones I wish I had”.
His desire to preserve old buildings in Cairns is hard to argue with when looking at the images of the past he has dug up from his research at Cairns Museum and the Queensland State Library.
The large buildings range from old shops, businesses and banks unfamiliar to new locals, to those that are familiar such as the old arts school in Shields St, where Cairns Museum now stands, the Civic Theatre when it was being built, the former Central Hotel on the corner of Lake and Spence streets that has since been the scene of many a nightclub, The Cairns Library, and The Cairns Post building.
Stepping into the past in a historic Google street view builds a vibrant world that would be otherwise hard to imagine, or which might appear stale in a museum setting.
Holding up a modern phone to a street corner in Cairns can now reveal people – moustached men with long beards and hats, women with long skirts and dark umbrellas used as parasols – in street scenes with horses and carts.
There are also aerial images and larger views of the town centre as well as the Cairns Esplanade and wharf.
Cheyenne says looking at the photographs reminds him of places in Cairns that have changed within his lifetime, such as the Esplanade before it had a lagoon, and where he says the sea was met by a wall.
The Historypin project website is a host to projects all over the world, with old and new photos being merged to create wonderful montages between life past and life present and there is a chance to meld people from the present into company with people of the past.
“You can merge old and new cars, buildings, mix black and white with colour photographs, and people can send in images of themselves or their family,’’ Cheyenne says.
“Anyone who has old historical photos of street scenes will be able to use them,” he says.
“What people can do using the app is take a photograph of themselves and then re-pin with an old photo.
“It has to be in the exact spot and superimposed.”
In cities around the world Historypin projects are known by various names. In Toronto, Canada, there’s a Moments in Time project, created by Harry Enchin, who merged images from City of Toronto archives with contemporary shots of the same places.
In New York, it’s Gilded Age New York, with images pinned by the Museum of the City of New York, while London calls its Historypin project StreetMuseum, with images from the Museum of London.
At the end of November, Cheyenne was nominated as pinner of the week on Historypin for his images of Cairns.
He plans to extend his pin project to Port Douglas and the region.
To view Cairns Time Machine visit www.historypin.com/channels/view/15550003/#/home.
To download Historypin for free, visit itunes.apple.com/us/app/historypin/id455228207?mt=8To learn more about Cairns, visit the museum at http://www.cairnsmuseum.org.au/
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Stepping back to the cobbled streets of Cairns is no longer out of our reach thanks to an exciting new project. photo // anna rogers