Bringing Historic Places to life with Old Photographs

Not every historic site is fortunate enough to have a plethora of historic photos, but some are. I am fortunate to work at a site that does have many historic photos and a well documented past.

Currently I am working to help bring the story of Hampton to life through the use of historic images, in what I am calling a photo-point tour. I got the idea from seeing images of battlefields overlaid with their current positions.

If you are not aware, Hampton Plantation is very similar to Drayton Hall, as in it is not a restored structure. This is great for telling the story of the home as it developed and revealing its architectural history, but seeing a house with no walls or ceilings can make it feel alien. By and large, visitors go to historic homes to learn about life in a different era; they want to relate their own experiences to those of people living in the past. (ie including the Human Element.)

To help bring some of its people to life, I am finding the location of historic photos throughout the home’s history, and lining up their current day counterparts.

My goal for this is two fold:

  1. It will provide a jumping off point for bringing up different themes in the plantation’s history.
  2. It will provide visitors that small glimpse into a past life, that has largely been erased as time marches on.


Here are two examples I have provided.

The first is Henry Rutledge, the owner of Hampton from 1860 to 1921. Here he is pictured in front of a tree from about 1900, with two deer he has hunted on the property. Henry was something of a character, he was always said to dress as an English sportsman. He would impart a love of hunting to his son Archibald Rutledge, who would make Hampton famous through his numerous poems, short stories, and books.

Henry Rutledge Tree

The second is Will Alston on the front steps of the mansion. The photo appears to be in the 1960s, when the Rutledge family still owned the house. Will was the son of Hampton tenants, and life long resident of Hampton Plantation (b. 1912 d. 1992). When Archibald Rutledge was living at Hampton, it was still a tenant operation, but the Alstons held a special place on the plantation. Will and his mother Sue, would assist Archibald in welcoming guests to the mansion, and after the house became a state entity, Archibald requested that Will be retained as a Park Ranger. He was the first park ranger until he passed away, and many visitors today remember Will and hearing some of his stories.

Will Alston


Has your site ever tried anything like this? Let me know.







Author: rekindlegoldglory

Just a public historian.

3 thoughts on “Bringing Historic Places to life with Old Photographs”

  1. Yes…but wasn’t able to get much buy-in on the concept.

    As a demonstration, a location-aware panorama was created using historical photos, painstakingly altered, edited, and stitched, to create a 360° view of a specific area as it appeared in 1915. This panorama was geo-linked to the location (and is also available as a non-geo-linked and stereo version) so that anyone with an HTML5/CSS3 compliant web browser on their phone or tablet, could stand at the current location and compare an aligned 1915 360° view to their current view of the location and compare the differences (similar to your examples).

    Please see link below for panorama.

    I also took a number of contemporary photos (and created additional panoramic images), that were aligned with historical images so they could be dissolved between a current view of specific locations and a corresponding 1915 image.

    The idea was to present this as a web-based tour that allowed viewers to tour multiple locations, and (essentially) perform a “scavenger hunt” to find “time portal” locations to compare their current view to the locations as they appeared in 1915.

    While there was some “in kind” support, there never was any financial support found for the project.


  2. We never got to that step “officially”. However when demonstrating it to a “board member” and random individuals visiting the location, there was a positive response along the lines of “that’s pretty cool”. Unfortunately, so far, that has not translated into anyone with a funding capability wanting to support the effort.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s