Historical websites use all sorts of visualizations to better explain the past. For instance, these websites may use charts, diagrams, photos, or artworks to help discuss certain aspects of the past. Maps, old and new, are also part of the list of visualizations historical websites use to explain the past. But the maps used by these websites are not just used to mark where an event took place. Websites like Hypercities, Experience Cleveland, and Philaplace use interactive maps as the basis of their sites where information is given in a way that static maps cannot. And though these websites use maps to help explain history, they do so in very different ways.
To start, Hypercities uses new and historical maps to show how cities around the world grew or changed overtime. Users have the ability to overlay historical maps over newer maps to compare and gain a sense of how cities changed overtime. Hypercities also lets users see how people of the past used maps to obtain information. For example, in the historic maps for Los Angeles, there is a map created by the US Census Bureau in 1940 tracking the distribution of the city’s Filipino population. Another example is used in Ollantaytambo, Peru, where a map is used in 2008 to track urban growth patterns.
Next, Experience Cleveland, created by Cleveland State University, is a website with an interactive map which is situated along Cleveland’s Euclid Avenue, or the Euclid Corridor. The website uses the map to highlight specific locations on Euclid Ave. and emphasizes on what these places once were. For example, the website showcases the Arcades, located in the first section of the Euclid Corridor. With a short overview of the building’s history and historic photographs, the website informs users how places like the Arcades were used and what they meant to people in the past.
Philaplace, created by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, also uses an interactive map, but to show the historical significance of places in the city of the Philadelphia. For example, the website features the significance of the many historic buildings in Philadelphia, like the Rieger & Gretz Brewery Smokestack. With detailed overviews, photos (old and new), and the exact location of where the buildings and other places can be found, the user will see why the location is significant in Philadelphia’s history and understand Philadelphia’s contributions to history as a whole.
The use of interactive maps in historical websites, such as those mentioned above, help explain the past in many ways and not just by showing where events took place. They can show how places changed overtime, what places once were, and its historical significance. Interactive maps help dissect the past in a new way and bring a form of clarity to many subjects that are vague in history.