Augmented Reality Revives 300-Year-Old Boston Bookstore

Bookstore from 1718 meets the future past.

A bookstore in Boston celebrated its 300th birthday with an augmented reality makeover. Historic Boston Incorporated (HBI) debuted an AR app last week that overlays 3D virtual signs dating back to 1850 on the historic Old Corner Bookstore.

The AR displays avoid “having to slap a bunch of signs on the building,” HBI executive director Kathy Kottaridis told The Boston Globe.

Artists Giovanna Casimiro and Ethan Vogt reimagined the bookstore’s signs from 1850, 1890, 1960 and 1990.

“Projects can be better with AR, especially when they propose to break the linear experience of time and space,” Casimiro told VRScout.

HBI hired a team of software developers who used Vuforia, a popular AR development framework, to build the app with the artists’ images.

The app, called Look Again, brings to life the Old Corner Bookstore’s past as an 1850 publishing house; an 1890 jewelry, woodworking, and tailor store; a 1960 pizza shop; and, finally, as the 1990 Globe Corner Store, which sold travel books and maps.

“The architecture hasn’t changed much in the past 300 years,” Vogt told The Boston Globe, “but the signage has changed dramatically.”

HBI volunteers passed out tablets last weekend with the app pre-installed so visitors could experience the building’s transformation.

“The technology itself is engaging and powerful,” Vogt said, “but what I really want to achieve is to have people connect with the invisible history of this building.”

As we previously reported, other projects using AR for history include the Lithodomos archaeology app and Timelooper, which sends you back to historic events.

The Look Again app is in beta and only available for Android with an iOS version reportedly in the works. It’s not yet on the Google Play store — but you can download the SDK.

You can watch a video of the app in action below.

About the Scout

Dieter Holger

Dieter is a technology journalist reporting for VRScout out of London. Send tips to and follow him on Twitter @dieterholger.

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