Travel back in time with Street View and Map Archives


The 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 globe in great detail through the screen of our phone or laptop.

As more and more data is collected and digitized, another opportunity opens up: being able to go back in time, whether it’s a year or a hundred years, to see what a place was like in the past.

Whether you’re investigating the spread of urban sprawl or just want to know what your street looked like before the turn of the millennium, here are three key resources you should use.

Google Street View

Google has accumulated many years of Street View imagery.

Google via David Nield

You might be used to looking up addresses and places through 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 imagery, but that’s now going back decades in some areas. Plus, you can now access historical photos on 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 that have Street View imagery will be highlighted in blue when you drag). When you drop the peg man, the latest street-level images for that location are displayed.

Look in the upper left corner: a small clock symbol next to the date of the photograph means that you can time travel. Click on the date to see your options, presented as a timeline slider, then swipe forward and back to watch the images of the available dates in the preview window. For a complete overview, click on the magnifying glass or on the images themselves.

Open Google Maps on Android or iOS and you’ll find the same functionality, letting you see how areas have developed over time. Here you need to long press on a road and then tap on the Map Dropped Pin at the bottom to access Street View. Once you load it in full screen, reopening the map will give you a See more dates link if older images are available.

Old maps online

Old Maps Online has links to a host of other resources.

Ancient Maps Online via David Nield

There are a variety of map archive portals on the web, but Old Maps Online is one of the most comprehensive and a good place to start no matter where and when you’re looking. To get started, click Find Location or choose Browse Old Maps if you want to see what’s available for your location.


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