mapMapper: A Web App for Mashing Maps Together

I just finished the first beta version of a small web application that allows people to easily place a static map on top of Google Maps and then share the results. This concept might not sound intriguing to everyone, but to a historian, researcher, or teacher this could be an invaluable tool.

A historical researcher might need to plot the locations of related historic events or determine the modern location of historic places. This can actually be quite difficult to do; the location of roads and other structures have changed, sometimes significantly, over time.

A teacher might want to mark-up an old map in order to show students the location of historic events or show students where historic events took place in relation to modern locations. A teacher could edit the map images in an image editor and manually add place markers, but this is tedious and only produces additional static images that might need to be edited again in the future.

The idea for this application actually came to me while taking a history class. The professor had an image of an old map displayed, it wasn't for the exact period which we were covering so he had to continually explain where specific events took place. I thought that it would be nice if he could plot the locations he wanted to talk about on the map so the students could easily see them.

(read more and get the link after the jump)

I also thought that it was a shame that the professor did not have an electronic image of a map for the exact time period we were discussing. I do not fault the professor, it is difficult to locate a map showing the correct amount of detail for the correct time period. This leads to the ultimate goal I have for this little application: I would like to create a version of Google maps that presents the fourth dimension, time. People should be able to view a place in Google maps and then select a period in time to see how the location looked then.

I had another idea similar to this a long time ago. My original idea was for creating an atlas that had a Mercator projection of the globe on every page, the only difference between the pages would be the political boundaries. I thought that it would be interesting to be able to flip through the pages and see an animation of the evolution of those man-made boundaries. This could be a powerful teaching tool.

The problem is that this could take a lifetime to complete accurately. Crowd-sourcing the idea could make the idea a reality in much less time. Step one is creating a graphical user interface that allows scholars to easily contribute to the effort, and that is where this little app comes in.

Google has Map Maker, which is a crowd-sourced mapping effort, but they are focused on mapping the present. Maybe someday they will add my ideas into their effort, until then I will continue to improve my little app.

Currently my app merely allows for maps to be overlaid, but it does not allow for uploading of the historical map images. So, the image must already be accessible on the Internet. Also, there is no server to keep track of the finished compilations, but a link is created which can be shared. When the link is accessed it simply rebuilds the view.

Here are the steps currently required to build your own map:

  1. Find a web link to an image you wish to use
  2. Open the mapMapper web application
  3. Manually locate the place you are interested in by panning and zooming
  4. Click the "Load" button and paste in the web link to your image
  5. Drag and scale the image and/or the map around until they are properly aligned
  6. Click the "Merge" button to glue your map into Google Maps
  7. Click the "Pin" button to show the pin title box
  8. Enter a title for your pin and click the "Drop" button
  9. Drag the pin to where you want it
  10. When you are done, click the "Link" button to show the link to your creation
  11. Triple-click the link text and copy it (Cmnd-C or Ctrl-C)
Here is a link to an example map which I created: mapMapper: Old Ohio Map Stay tuned.
Published: 2011-09-10
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