OnThisSpot app transforms Vancouver's history

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      Vancouver’s own Arthur Erickson, one of Canada’s most legendary architects, famously said that “Whenever we witness art in a building, we are aware of an energy contained by it.” Vancouver’s most exciting new app, OnThisSpot, aims to harness that energy.

      Part history book, part interactive walking tour, OnThisSpot juxtaposes past and present in a unique and engaging way. Using a smartphone’s Google Map function, the app highlights a number of sites of historical interest. Tapping on each spot, participants are able to read up on the history of the location with the program’s insightful blurbs, creating an interactive way to navigate the city. Carefully collected into self-guided walking tours, the app’s locations create a journey through areas like Chinatown and the Stanley Park seawall, and collate the images into themed expeditions like “Skylines” and “Vanished Vancouver.”

      The software’s true uniqueness, however, stems from its well-sourced images. Each site comes complete with an old black-and-white shot of the setting, showing the locale in its former glory. With the app’s fascinating “fade to now” function, users can watch as the image slowly transforms into a picture of the same spot in the modern day.

      The app is navigable from your couch by simply scrolling through the offered locations, but following the proposed walking tours unlocks further functionality. Upon reaching the site, users can tap an icon that will overlay the archive photo onto what the camera is seeing. By changing the transparency of the image, it’s possible for adventurers to capture a hybrid of the past and present, and save it to their photos.  

      Created by historian Andrew Farris and developer Christopher Reid, the duo behind the popular international photo-essay blog onthisspot.ca, the app aims to make local history accessible to people of all ages and education.  Offering locals a deeper understanding of their heritage and culture, Farris and Reid’s creation intends to foster a stronger sense of community.

      “To be able to see the people who once walked the same streets you are walking, and to read of the great events and long-vanished daily routines that once occurred where you are standing,” says Farris’s overview, “is a uniquely humbling and contemplative experience.” 

      Bringing history to life, the app offers a totally new way to explore the Vancouver.


      Then and Now: Gastown
      Then and Now: Granville Street
      Then and Now: Stanley Park


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