Google Custom Maps

Google has become the go-to spot for anything and everything you need on the web.  Need a new email address? There’s GMail for that!  Want to upload and edit pictures?  There’s Picasa and Picnik for that!  Going to create a new website or blog?  There’s GoogleSites and Blogger for that!  The list goes on and on…

Google has had a mapping app since 2004 and since this time they have worked to expand the program’s uses.  In my opinion, one of the most interesting parts of GoogleMaps, is the “My Places” tab through which you can create custom maps.

I created a small map of some of my favorite restaurants in the DC area (just click the link: http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=205872830089346630056.0004bd6c639d5f082e105&msa=0).  It was extremely easy and the interactive tutorial helps lead you through every step!

After playing around with my own map, I got to wondering how this tool has been used by academics.  I was able to find the Google Developers Showcase (https://developers.google.com/showcase/), a sector of Google that shows off how developers have used Google technologies to create amazing sites and applications.  One of my favorites was the interactive DC map created by the National Capitol Planning Commission (http://www.ncpc.gov/memorials/).  This map shows every memorial in DC, groups them into categories to make it easier to sort through them, and allows you to see each memorial from the street view.  A more historical use of GoogleMaps can be seen at Historypin (http://www.historypin.com/).  This site has popped up before in class, but it is an excellent way to see maps with past photos overlaying current structures.

After exploring these sites, I am excited to see how such an application as GoogleMaps will grow and expand in the humanities field.  In my opinion, this is an excellent way to encourage visitors to different cities to explore the history of the area; however I am worried that the historical use of mapping technologies may not be able to expand far past the tourism sector.

One Reply to “Google Custom Maps”

  1. Good post and great presentation, btw! I have been (lazily) trying to figure out how to use custom maps for a long time, but never could, so thank you for finally showing me how to do that.

    As for expanding beyond tourism, after the discussion in class, I believe there are a lot of educational ways in which maps can help interpret or teach history. GoogleMaps is such a versatile platform that many sites explicitly attempting to help interpret history like historypin and ARIS (arisgames.org) are able to use it to further their aims.

    Futhermore, I could see many chances for teachers in a K-12 setting to make interactive maps for kids that help to document important moments in the American history of Western expansion, the pony express, the development of railroads and canals, or the advent of the national highway system.

    GoogleMaps is also an incredibly dynamic record of almost all the prominent place names in the country, which could allow students to search for places named after historic figures. Students could use GoogleMaps as a jumping off place for research into historic commemoration through sites and place names.

    The possibilities are endless!

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