Homework #5: Working with Google Maps, Google Earth, and “Time Map” Tools

Over the weekend, I completed the “Intro to Google Maps and Google Earth” tutorial from The Programming Historian. I learned how to import a dataset into a layer on Google Maps. The tutorial used data about UK Global Fat Supply from 1896, and through changing the style of the placemarks, I created a map that colors the placemarks by what kind of commodity that region provided.

Additionally, I learned how to create my own placemarks, lines, and polygons (enclosed areas or regions) on Google Maps. Knowing how to create these vector layers could be important for our project because many of our historical questions deal with geography, such as the difference between the slaveholders’ “geography of confinement” versus the slaves’ “rival geography” (for a full list of questions, see our previous post about historical questions).  However, it is more likely that we will be creating spreadsheets with the data that we will eventually want to use in a map, such as the location of the slave owner or the possible location the slave ran. Overall, Google Maps seems like a pretty simple tool for plotting locations or events. One of the main drawbacks of Google Maps, however, is that it can only import the first 100 rows of a dataset and only 3 datasets for a total of 300 features. It seems like we possibly have more data without narrowing the advertisements down than Google Maps can hold.

The tutorial also let me explore some of the features of Google Earth. Google Earth has the ability to create vector layers like in Google Maps, but it also has more advanced features such as the ability to upload a historical map to overlay over a section of Google Earth.

Map of Canada from 1815 overlayed on Google Earth

Google Earth has an interesting historical imagery view, which includes a sliding timeline bar that shows what a region looked like at a particular moment in time. Clare and I thought that we would be able to add placemarks with certain time stamps so that they only showed up at a certain point in time and then to animate the whole sequence. We tried valiantly to make it work, but the placemarks appeared regardless of which point in the timeline was selected on the timeline bar. At this point, without finding some sort of tutorial, I do not think we can go much further with animating placemarks on Google Earth.

We do think that being able to animate points in time would be useful for us to look at many of our historical questions. Neatline, a tool of the online exhibit creator Omeka, would give us the ability to do this. On Wednesday, I would like to take a closer look at what Neatline and TimeMapper (another tool for making “time maps”) do to see if either is something that we might want to pursue. In addition to looking at these time mapping tools during class, I want to look back over the tutorial on thematic data maps to better understand how Google Fusion Tables works. I think that these tools dealing with geography will potentially be useful in analyzing or presenting our data because of the focus on geography that many of our historical questions have.

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