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Historical Scholarship in the Digital Age

Tool Review: Google Earth for Digital Historians

With tools like Google Earth, historians can construct interactive and engaging forms of history. Users can generate graphical representations of events to visually convey events. For instance, Google and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) collaborated to spread awareness of the genocide in Darfur [link]. The overlay they generated includes descriptive HTML that presents users with first-hand testimonies, pictures, the locations of refugee camps, and links to video clips. The Darfur map included an overlay that could be turned on that displayed 3D columns to visually represent the numbers of displaced persons. Teachers may speak of 200,000 displaced individuals, but to visually represent such numbers conveys greater weight to a subject. The same approach could be taken with historical events, such as using columns to display war casualties in World War II or the location and relevant information of Nazi death camps. Additionally, students could get an idea of how early cartographers viewed the planet with the Dave Rumsey historical maps [link] or explore the geographic and historical data related to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake [link].

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Google Earth Election Overlays from the University of Richmond

I’ve neglected to point out that our good friend Andrew Torget and the crew at the Digital Scholarship Lab at the University of Richmond partnered up with Google Earth and created map overlays to analyze state and county voting results from 1980 through 2004.  The Voting America map also includes demographic information from the U.S. Census that allows users to get a county-level look at how populations voted over time.  The collaboration builds upon the DSL’s Voting America: United States Politics, 1840-2004, which explores the last 164 presidential elections through cinematic and interactive maps.

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