Lens Flare launches website, app to show users how Stillwater used to look

A new app will combine historic photographs by John Runk and current locations on a tour of Stillwater. (Left image, Chestnut Street in 2016 by Alicia Lebens. Right image, Chestnut Street in 1912 by John Runk courtesy of the Washington County Historical Society )

Lens Flare Stillwater, a not-for-profit project funded by The Stillwater Area Foundation, announces its new web site and free app to visitors, tourists and residents. This project won The Great Idea competition in 2016, under the name Pivot Stillwater, but a change in the software powering the project prompted a name change. The project objective provided a web-based app for mobile devices that enables users to carry the history of Stillwater in their pocket while traveling through a “geo-location time tunnel.”

A visitor standing in front of Terra Springs Condominiums in Stillwater can go to the lensflarestillwater.org website and activate the browser-based app. The app senses the user’s location, and the device is triggered to show a photo of how that same location appeared at some previous point in the past. In this case, the Terra Springs location was the Territorial Prison, one of the early 1850s buildings in Stillwater. In addition to the photo are text and audio narratives along with other photos of the location.

When the user walks into the area a different nearby historic location, a new photo and information automatically appear on his or her mobile device.

The app seeks to enhance users’¬†experience of actually visiting Stillwater. To experience historic Stillwater from an armchair, people can use the website by itself.

Dr. Robert Molenda, a retired 3M research manager and marketer heads up a small volunteer group of history buffs who provide the content, narratives and populate the software fields for this project.

“The content is a tribute to John Runk, an early photographer who collected and archived his and other photos of Stillwater for historical purposes,” Molenda said. “From what I know of him, he would have felt right at home with this project.”

Visit Lens Flare at lensflarestillwater.org.