I came across a tweet by The Archivist that displays a time lapse GIF made from layered historical photographs of Fairmont Hotel in Vancouver. I found it very captivating and interesting to watch as GIFs are typically used as memes to provide humour. However, as “flip books of the Internet,” GIFs can, and have, functioned beyond memes to illustrate tutorial directions, animate data to provide context, market products and ideas to consumers, or layer images to show movement or change. This GIF in particular constructs and deconstructs layers of cityscape images to engage viewers and encourage interest in the historical development of Vancouver.
— CANT (@Archivists_) June 15, 2016
I started to think about how GIFs could be made, and decided to try making one of my own for fun. To make an animated GIF you can either use Photoshop or a GIF animator online. Instructions for how to use Photoshop can be found here. For alternatives, animated GIFs can be created using apps and tools such as Screenflow, Giffy, and others.
While I was searching for images to use for my GIF, I came across a series of photographs from the article “Then-and-now: Toronto’s Queen Street West in photos through the years.” This article compares present day photography from James Bombales with historic images of Toronto from the Toronto Public Library and City of Toronto Archives. In the article, readers can make direct comparisons between the 20th century and present day by dragging a bar to reveal or hide images from past and present. In doing so, readers are able to understand what development has occurred since the historic images were captured, and visually confirm what remains unchanged.
I decided to select the images of Queen Street West at Yonge Street, which compares 1983 to the present, to reveal similarities and differences between the streetcars. I took snapshots of the images as I dragged the bar from one direction to another to reveal more of the historic image. I then uploaded these snapshots to Gifmaker and simply downloaded the GIF. I love how my GIF came out, it literally peels back a layer of time to reveal the streets of Toronto during the 1980s.
In a post about unearthing lost narratives in Coal Harbour, The Archivist explained that “once you begin folding a multilayered past back into a present-day location, a kind of alchemical change happens. Your point of view about the place changes. When your point of view changes there’s a good chance a more robust conversation about the site will take shape.” With that said, through revealing multilayered pasts, GIFs can serve as tools for challenging myths, inspiring dialogue, sharing historical narratives, and developing deep-routed sense of place.