Merge Historical Maps With Current World In Google Earth

Google Earth Gets Historic Maps

Google Earth in 4D from
Googling Google is a very nice catch about how
Google Earth now allows you to view
historical maps within the software. Want to see how people thought the world
used to look, before all those satellites were taking pictures? A new layer
makes this possible.

For this to work, you have to have the latest version of Google Earth, Google
Earth 4 (which will kindly change your default search engine in Internet
Explorer to use Google, unless you untick that box — so pay attention if you
don’t want that change. For more on Google being worried about changing IE’s
search defaults, see my
Searching Via
Internet Explorer 7 & The Battle To Be The Default Search Engine

Next, within Google Earth, you need to activate the Rumsey Historical Maps
feature. Google gives instructions

. The screenshot below also shows what to change:

Getting Old Maps Into Google Earth

Select a map, and it’s placed over the existing world. For example, here’s
the Lewis & Clark map:

Lewis & Clark Map

You can then zoom in for more detail, though I wish it were easier to blend
the real world more with the historical map. Terrain boundaries, along with
roads if you switch them on, are shown in a hard-to-see yellow. Even better
would be if actual satellite images could some how be lightly ghosted behind the

Here’s a close up on the Lewis & Clark map:

Lewis & Clark Map, Detail

Here’s part of San Francisco from 1853:

San Francisco, 1853

Sadly, one of my favorite old maps, that of California as an island, isn’t
offered. Not to fear! The David Rumsey
, which provides maps to Google Earth, allows you to browse a much wider
collection of maps. You don’t need Google earth to do so, either. Of course, you
can’t then overlay the maps on to of current plots of geographic features and
roads. Still, it’s well worth a visit. Here’s an example of California as
island, that I was talking about:

California As Island

Postscript: Garett Rogers from Googling Google sent how to get the
underlying “real” world information to show through. Look at the Places sidebar.
You should see an unnamed slider bar at the bottom. Don’t see it? Try minimizing
that window, then reopening it. Still don’t see it? Go to the Layers window and
select the map you’ve enabled. Then click off that to any other map, then
quickly click back to the map. That should make the slider appear (I didn’t see
it at first because of this bug). Move the slider to the left slowly and the
underlying “real” information will start to bleed through.

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