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Travel Back in Time With Street View and Map Archives


tools and The technology used to map our world is improving all the time, and we take it for granted that we can view any part of the planet in detail from the screen of our phone or laptop.

As more and more data is collected and digitized, another opportunity arises: being able to step back — be it a year or a hundred years — and see what a place used to be like.

Whether you’re investigating the sprawl of urban sprawl or just wondering what your streets looked like before the turn of the century, these are three key resources you should use.

Google Street View

Google has built Street View imagery for years.

Google via David Nield

You’re probably used to seeing addresses and locations with Google Street View, but did you know you can use it to travel back in time? Obviously, you’re limited by the date Google actually had Street View imagery, but now in some areas it goes back decades. Additionally, you can now access historical photos on the web and on the Google Maps mobile app.

To find them on Google Maps on the web, drag the pin from the bottom right corner of the map interface to anywhere on the map (as you drag, roads with Street View images will be highlighted in blue). When you drop a pin, you’ll see the latest street imagery for that location.

Look at the top left: the small clock symbol next to the date of the photography means you can go back in time. Click a date to see your options, displayed as a timeline slider, then drag forward and backward to see an image of the date available in the preview window. For a full look, click on the magnifying glass or the image itself.

Open Google Maps on Android or iOS and you’ll find the same functionality that lets you see how regions have developed over time. Here, you need to tap and hold a road, then tap the Dropped Pin card at the bottom to enter Street View. Once loaded in full screen, if there are old images available, opening the card again will give you the See More Dates link.

old map online

Old Maps Online links to numerous other resources.

David Nield Online Old Map

There are various map archive portals on the web, but Old Maps Online is one of the most comprehensive, and it’s a great place to start no matter when or where. To get started, click Find a place, or select Browse old maps if you want to see available information for your location.

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