Transforming Historical Research Via Google Earth/Maps

As Google Earth and Maps gets upgraded from time-to-time, so does the historians ability to transform historical data into geospatial renderings.  Three dimensional capabilities not only allow for existing structures and natural landscapes to be depicted, but structures that no longer exist can be rebuilt using ancient literary, epigraphical, and iconographic descriptions.  With traditional maps three dimensional landscapes could not be depicted.  Google Maps and Earth are not bound by this limitation.  With enough time, three dimensional structures can be created of buildings both past and present allowing viewers to witness the changing skyline of a city over the past decade or even the past few centuries.  For historians, these applications can be utilize in a number of ways.  For example, a military historian who, in book format, would have only been able to explain troop movements verbally, and represent them in fragments, can now portray them in their entirety in one fluid progression.  Time can be stopped and terrain can be analyzed to illustrate specific obstacles.  Another example could be the display of military actions that have taken place in locations like Tripoli or the Hellespont over the past 2000 years.  In the future, you might be able to use 3D renditions of ancient cities to link you with primary documents associated with certain buildings or locations.  Since Google Earth already offers 3D models of ancient Rome, it would not be too difficult to create a database of Roman scholarship that could be accessed through clicking on desired landmarks.  If someone wished to find out what sources there are available on the ancient Roman senate house, then all they would have to do would be to click on the senate house model.    

Unfortunately, at the moment, these programs do have their limitations.  Although Goole Earth can be amazing from a visual perspective, and Google Maps can be useful for navigation, neither of them are able to provide much insight through the written word.  Literary analysis is sacrificed for graphic illustrations.  This isn’t necessarily reflective of any fault by these programs developers.  Instead, it is that these programs are still relatively young.  Hopefully in the near future, developers will realize that literary sources–both primary and secondary–would compliment the original visual nature of Google Earth/Maps.  

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One thought on “Transforming Historical Research Via Google Earth/Maps

  1. So, do you think that such technologies as Google Earth should replicate what is available textually on other sites? Aren’t they in part filling in what has been left out for decades (millenia?). I understand that texts are essential (I’m focused on them mostly myself), and that together texts and images are most powerful – but do they always need to be presented side-by-side?

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