Tools and The technology used to map our world is constantly improving, and we take it for granted that we can see any part of the world in great detail through the screen of our phone or laptop.
As more data is collected and digitized, another opportunity opens up: the ability to take a step back in time—whether a year or a hundred years—to see what a place looked like in the past.
Whether you’re researching the spread of urban sprawl, or just want to know what your street looked like before the turn of the millennium, these are three key resources you should be using.
Google Street View
You may be used to checking addresses and locations with Google Street View, but did you know you can use it to go back in time? Obviously you’re limited by the dates that Google actually has Street View images for, but this now goes back decades in some areas. What’s more, you can now access historic photos on both the web and Google Maps mobile apps.
To find them on Google Maps on the web, drag the peg man from the lower right corner of the map interface to any location on the map (roads with Street View images will be highlighted in blue as you drag). When you untick, you’ll be shown the latest street-level imagery for that location.
Look in the upper left corner: the little clock symbol next to the date of the photo means you can travel back in time. Click on a date to see your options, presented as a timeline slider, then drag forward and backward to view images from available dates in the preview window. To get the full look, click on the magnifying glass or the images themselves.
Open Google Maps on Android or iOS and you’ll find the same functionality, allowing you to see how areas have developed over time. Here you need to tap and hold the road and then tap the Dropped Pin tab at the bottom to get to Street View. After you load it full screen, opening the tab again will give you a See More Dates link if older images are available.
Old maps Online
There are a number of map archive portals on the web, but Old Maps Online is one of the most comprehensive and a good starting point no matter where and when you’re looking. To get started, click Find a Place or select Browse Old Maps to see what’s available for your location.