14 June 2012
EDINA are currently working in partnership with the London School of Economics to create PhoneBooth, an application that repackages the insights of Charles Booth’s social conditions assessment in London from 1886–1903.
The Booth Collections, held by the LSE Library Archives and available online, paint a detailed picture of life and labour in yesteryear’s London. Charles Booth, along with a team of investigators, put together this survey out of curiosity and concern for the social issues of the day. The continued relevance of the Booth archives is the premise for BBC 2’s new series The Secret History of our Streets, which explores the changes in London since the investigation. Each of the programme’s six episodes tells the story of a street on Booth's maps then and now.
The series uses Booth's maps as a tool for researching London's social history and as a way to visualise and explore the relationship between modern locations and their historical counterparts. In the Phonebooth project EDINA are enabling the full range of streets in the Booth maps to be explored in this way by georeferencing related materials, including digitised pages from Booths notebooks, and making them available on mobile devices. Georeferencing ties digital materials to their physical locations in the world and PhoneBooth will therefore be enabling people to explore the archives in relation to their own location. When the application is finished, users will walk through the world preserved by the Booth Collections while on today’s transformed streets.
The PhoneBooth project builds on EDINA's mobile expertise from previous projects including GeoMobile, which looked into the fusion of mobile geography, and the iPhone app Walking Through Time, which overlays historical Edinburgh maps onto modern ones allowing user to find themselves in both the past and the present.
Fans of "The Secret History of our Streets" will want to keep an eye on the project's development in the coming weeks. After June 18th, testing will begin in preparation for LSE's Fall semester "London’s Geographies" course. PhoneBooth will be piloted by the course to assess the impact of using mobilised archival materials in an educational setting.