Google Maps has been an increasingly useful tool for many of us over the last few years, most notably for getting driving, biking, or walking directions and navigating in new cities, but also in ways that aren't so obvious, such as checking out hiking trails, finding EV charging stations, and even keeping an eye on deforestation.
But a fairly recent move to open up the Google Maps Engine to organizations, so they can share their maps with the public from an interface we're familiar with, is also opening up a whole new world of exploration, including the option for virtual time travel to study history.
This week's launch of the Google Maps Gallery makes it much easier to find and explore maps that cover a range of areas of historical interest, and help "unlock the world’s geospatial data." The Gallery functions somewhat like an interactive atlas, although a digital one, and could open up a huge opportunity for people to discover and explore all sorts of mapping data for education, advocacy, activism, and business.
Some of the recently published maps, which can also be viewed in Google Earth, include such notable historical maps such as those of the Lewis and Clark expedition, the US Civil War, ancient Greece, Tokyo as it was in 1680, the Theater of War in Europe, Africa, and Western Asia, and many more. By using a transparency slider, you can compare current maps with the historical ones, which adds another element to the discovery process.
These types of mapping projects could be a great resource for teachers, for educating ourselves, for homeschooling, or for research, and because they're embeddable and sharable, they can also be used in a variety of digital publications or advocacy work.
"With the Gallery, governments, nonprofits and businesses can publish maps and manage their content on their own terms with settings that enable control over maps branding, styling and licensing. Additionally, with the ability to synchronize maps from legacy systems and open data portals to the Gallery, organizations can take advantage of having a complementary online channel for their data. This lets their maps be more accessible and useful for their audiences — all powered by Google’s reliable cloud infrastructure.
Today, Gallery users can browse content from organizations such as National Geographic Society, World Bank Group, United States Geological Survey, Florida Emergency Management and the City of Edmonton — but this is just the beginning. Maps Gallery is now open to organizations with content for the public good." - Google
Check out the some of the offerings from the Google Maps Gallery, including perhaps the Historical category, the Environment section, or the Infrastructure section and get lost in some digital maps today.