Thanks to Ryah for sharing the information about undersea Google Earth in Sydney Harbor with me in the short course earlier today. With just a quick glance, this seems to be a very interesting concept underway and a great way to get students interested in oceans, marine wildlife and flora, and science/biology. Now the question remains: how do we get that applied to history?
As much as we’d love to, we can’t just go back in time to Google Earth/Google Map historical sites that have changed. We can add images from archives to these locations, but that may not be enough in this digital, virtual age. There are some places in Google Earth that viewers can see inside historical buildings. I remember my high school history teacher (several years ago) showing us the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles in Google Earth. At that point, it was so cool to be able to see something like that half-way around the world, especially when until about a year-and-a-half ago, I’d never been farther east than Chicago, let alone outside the country.
I was lucky to have an opportunity to travel a little and participate in a study abroad, but not everyone is. My parents for instance have yet to see the places that I have outside the US (although to be fair, they’ve also been to a few places I have yet to see, but it’s all relative). The digital, virtual makes this possible. We can build on things like Google Earth showing the Hall of Mirrors to create other virtual tours (Google or otherwise) for history sites that are still standing. Digital connects with younger, more interactive viewers who are the future visitors and caretakers of these institutions. Getting them interested in seeing these sites can help them become interested in the history of these sites, encouraging travel to and, ultimately, support (financial and otherwise) these historical sites that for various reasons are important to us.
Read a little about the Sydney Harbor project here: http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/digital-life-news/underwater-google-street-view-to-reveal-what-lies-beneath-sydney-harbour-20140306-349op.html