Rumsey Historical Maps with Google Earth

Google Earth is a sophisticated imaging tool that can be used quite powerfully when teaching history. The visual perspective can illuminate a viewpoint not easy to convey through words. Maureen Festi shared how to use the Rumsey Historical Maps in Google Earth at the April 27th Teaching American History session. David Rumsey has made his maps available as a layer for Google Earth.

  • Under the Gallery settings, check the box for Rumsey Historical Maps.
  • Give Google Earth a few minutes to gather the information.
  • Click on the triangle/arrow to list the two subtopics and double-click on the Map Finder.
  • You’ll see different “compass rose” icons listing the specific maps.
  • Click on the icon to open it.
  • Click on the thumbnail to place the map as new layer atop Google Earth’s layer.

And it just doesn’t get any better than the North_America/United_States_1833 map that has an eagle superimposed on the map — it’s a must see!

Google Earth Tips:

  • Google Earth can be rather intimidating because the sheer amount of information shared visually so you may want to uncheck most of the layers when you start.
  • I usually leave on Borders and Labels under the Primary Database and Terrain (at bottom). I prefer to keep the Gallery unchecked and then click on the specific layers I wish to view. Some layers are like a wiki in that you can add your own photos (Panoramio) so they maybe unreliable. Museums and businesses add theirs to Places of Interests.
  • You can always turn different Layers on or off as you work.
  • The Layers are accessing online databases and this process takes time to download. You’ll probably think nothing is working (as I often do) until the information from the Layer starts popping up somewhat magically.
  • Save any interesting places as you work so you can look at them later.
  • Give yourself a little time and have fun! Your enthusiasm will engage your students in learning.

I originally wrote most of the above text for the CTTAH wikispace for the Teaching American History project.


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