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Get A Visual Taste Of History With Google Maps & Google Earth

By Joshua Lockhart2013-02-05

visual history googleGoogle Maps and Google Earth have always been known for helping mobility-impaired wunderlusters virtually adventure all over the globe. However, despite any of your current obstacles, it’s always possible – whether it be after time or financial gain – to travel at least once in your life.

What is actually impossible is the ability to go back in time and visit worldwide landmarks during different eras, but as expected, Google has already attempted to fix this small problem in the time-space continuum.

Our technological TARDIS remains on Earth, but nevertheless, the potential that Google Maps and Google Earth offer is impressive. I’m here to show you just how impressive they can be.

Street View Locations & Photo Tours

We all have used Street View to take a look at our house (or to see if the neighbors down the street actually have a pool). However, for those of you seeking to be more productive with your Google Map activities, there are a few historical sites to explore on your own. Most of them offer user-submitted images to view as well, and if you are up for browsing, you can find hundreds of these locations. Below are three of them.

Kronborg Castle

visual history google

The world of Hamlet comes to life through the Street View images of Kronborg Castle. Here, you can move about the castle’s courtyard on your own and view photos that showcase the structure in a variety of ways. On the historically-accurate side of the fence, I say it’s always interesting to tour places that were influenced so much by war.

Bletchley Park

visual history

While serving as a British decryption area for Axis-transmitted ciphers during World War II, the intelligence acquired from Bletchley Park helped the Allies take down the U-boats in the Battle of The Atlantic. That said, this secretive site is now open for the public to view today. It’s funny how history works, isn’t it?

Catherine Palace

visual history

Catherine Palace was a summer residence for Russian tsars, but it eventually came to be known for Catherine the Great – its namesake. The female leader of Russia called for several renovations during her lifetime, building it to be the beautiful structure we see represented today.

Note that I did say “represented”, for the Germans intentionally destroyed it during World War II. Fortunately, the Russians kept many records depicting its original state, and it was allowed to be rebuilt quite efficiently.

Google Photo Tours

visual history

There are quite a few other locations you can find in addition to the places I’ve shown here. However, with Google Photo Tours, you can be magically transported through an automatic 3D-like slideshow which jumps you from place to place throughout a location. As a matter of fact, Google has a map that links to each and and every single one that exists. Please note that you must use MapGL in order for these to work.

Derivative Creations

Beyond Street View and Google Photo Tours are sites and other creations that have integrated Google Maps and Earth. Keep reading to check out just a few of them.

There And Then

history google maps

There And Then may be my most favorite site out of all the ones shown here, and it’s because of its unique incorporation of video into Google Street View. The site exhibits an album of selectable historically significant locations, and after choosing one, a screenshot of its Google Street View image will take up the screen along with an extra snazzy feature.

Layered upon the Street View is a YouTube video displaying the same selected location in its former years. What makes this interesting is that the video content is graphically lined up with the Street View picture, providing the illusion of history happening in the present. As a note, Street View is not actually usable with There And Then.

History Pin

history google maps

History Pin lets contributors geographically pin their photographs of landmarks to a Google map. While on the site, you could search for a location like the Eiffel Tower. After “arriving” to your destination, you’ll see a group of photographs focused on the metal wonder that include an image from 1855 and one depicting a scene from New Year’s Eve of 2008. These are just a few samples of the many pictures found here, and it’s also a small sample of what History Pin has to offer as a whole.

Along with this image-sharing feature are on-screen tours, collections of landmark photos, and personalized channels. Users can easily add their own photos, highlighting the History Pin’s creators’ desire for a collaborative environment. Furthermore, a search-by-date function exists, helping you see the world at any point of time.

The Titanic

visual history google

Google Earth already offers several different 3D building models for web-world travelers to discover, but if you do a bit of searching, you’ll find a few 3D shipwrecks scattered across the seas, too. The above link will actually allow you to download a .KMZ file that whisks you away to the Titanic shipwreck site, taking you below the waters and to a crude 3D model of the behemoth.

Of course, the 3D model of the ship by itself isn’t very educational. Alongside the polygonal representation are a few photographs of the sunken Titanic paired with links to the photo source. All in all, this little feature is amazing.

Oh, and here are a few more .KMZ files for you to download:

If this doesn’t satiate your historical cravings, you can find a number of them at Google Earth Hacks.


The world is a vast and wonderful place, and the folks Google are just crazy enough to try and document it all. In real life, it would be impossible to visit every square inch of this planet, and unfortunately, it seems to be be the same case with Google’s electronic representation. However, I’m willing to bet you can see a lot more of the world in a lot less time using the above links. (Nothing beats breathing in a new kind of air, though.)

What other locations have you found with Google Maps and Google Earth? Do you have any suggestions for us here at MakeUseOf?


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