29 January 2010

Lithuania: View your shtetl from the air

Would you like to see your ancestral shtetl and environs from the air?

A new website now makes it possible to see aerial photographs of many Lithuanian cities and towns. Tracing the Tribe wishes such a website for Belarus existed.

The photos were taken via a video camera installed in a radio-controlled "Magpie" model plane. The site founder is photographer Kestutis Fedirka, who launched it in November 2009. Read more about the technical aspects of the work here.

Jeff Miller, of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Washington, sent along a note which profiled the site. There are two versions of the website, in English and in Lithuanian.

While the site has an elegant graphic design and the videos are quite nice, it is not a good site for the visually impaired with its black background and grey lettering. Tracing the Tribe found it very hard to read even with our computer glasses. Some of the lettering just fades away. A quick fix would be for them to change the grey to white lettering. Even the logo used on this post (upper left) had lettering nearly impossible to read until I adjusted the contrast with a photo editor.

Here is one shot of Trakai Castle:

How to search:

On the homepage top bar, readers will see a line of 10 Lithuanian regions, along with the crest of each. Click on the region and then see a list of towns. Click on the town of interest and you'll see an aerial video. Click on the lower right corner and see it full-screen. The accompanying music makes it seem as if you are floating in a hot-air balloon over the town.

The music is very familiar, but I can't place it. If any reader does know what the piece is, please let me know.

You can even click on 3D (upper left corner of the picture screen) and link to Cooliris, which is another interesting program for photo techies. You'll need to download this plug-in and then you can see other sites using it. It claims to offer the fastest way to search Google and other sites for video and photographs. The demo is impressive and there are several tutorials, as well as a blog. According to the Cooliris site:

It's simply the fastest and most stunning way to browse photos and videos from the Web or your desktop. Effortlessly scroll an infinite "3D Wall" of your content without having to click page to page, whether you'e on Facebook, Google Images, YouTube, Flickr, Picasa, Kodak Gallery, or any supported site. Or channel surf the latest news, TV episodes, movies, and music videos all from within Cooliris.

After looking at the Cooliris site, I realized the Lithuanian site design was the Cooliris site, which uses the same black background and lighter lettering. A dark background is excellent for photos and videos as they seem to stand out much better, but the lighter lettering is somewhat hard to read.

Since I knew that some of our BANK family had lived in Raseinai, according to various archival records, I selected Kaunas and then Raseinai.

If, for example, you are looking for Rokiskis:

1. Select "Panevėžio apskritis" (Lithuanian version) or "Panevėžys region" (English version)

2. Scroll down to Rokiskis.

To see the coastal village of Nida:

1. Select "Klaipėdos apskritis" (Lithuanian) or "Klaipėda region" (English),

2. Scroll down to Nida.

The video clips stream along from different angles, and that soundtrack is great!

For sale on the site is a 100-page album, containing more than 2,000 photos from 62 communities, with descriptions in Lithuanian and English.

Well worth a look for researchers of Lithuania.

1 comment:

  1. thanks for posting about this website. One branch of my maternal grandmother's family has a long history in the town of Lazdijai. My immediate family members were all in America before 1931.