Exploring historical photos with Picnooga

Authored By seanphippster

A month ago, we reported that David Moon was working on an as-yet-unnamed project to preserve Chattanooga history.

The project now has a name and a website.

Picnooga seeks to celebrate the history of Chattanooga and its “historical vicinity through photographic images and personal retrospects from local residents and historians.”

Though it’s still in the initial stages of development, Moon envisions a sort of interactive Google map featuring photos but also the historical research found on Wikipedia entries. Each location would have contributed content, and people could add their stories and information.

In the meantime, the Picnooga Facebook page is particularly active with new content.

Moon has also partnered with local organizations like Southtree to help digitally archive photographs. He also hopes to work with HistoryPin, an international project to combine photos and maps with stories and historical information.

The technology is the easy part; it’s the thrill of the chase that keeps Moon excited.

“What excites me is not on the Internet yet,” he said. “We all have old photos in boxes. But you don’t ever really think about the backdrops of those photos … Maybe they’re in front of a bridge or a building. Not that the people aren’t important, but there’s another aspect of it … finding the undiscovered landscape of something that is long-gone.”

And so far, it’s working.

People have submitted historically significant photographs featuring Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1940 visit to Chattanooga, an unnamed Civil War soldier and photos of devastating downtown floods.

To describe his process, Moon walked us through the mystery surrounding a recently submitted photo depicting what appeared to be a large fire on Market Street.

After research, it was discovered that this fire occurred in August 1888 and killed at least five people, including William Krug.

Moon used the information collected on FindAGrave.com to date the photograph.

According to a newspaper article on the fire, the estimated financial impact was between $225,000 and $350,000. The article states that completely “burned-out” buildings included Shelton, Howard & Co., Phelps & Long, Rosenay, Crutchfield & Co., the M. Block Drug Company and others.

“This is what excites me more than anything, ” Moon said. “It’s not just building, that kind of archeology you have to go through. What’s the story behind it?”

Moon hopes more people will step forward and submit their photographs to the project because, he says, you never know what you might find.

“I love when a photo brings back a memory for someone or they recall a story that might otherwise have been lost,” he said.