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Duke, Durham merge Google Earth technology with historic city maps

USA–A Duke-Durham collaboration that merges Google Earth technology with historic city maps offers a new online resource for educators, historians and the Durham community.

The Digital Durham Web site (https://digitaldurham.duke.edu/) — which includes U.S. Census data, photographs, personal and public records dating back to post-Civil War Durham — recently added more than 30 newly digitised maps from the city Department of Public Works and university libraries, including two integrated with Google Earth satellite images of present-day Durham.

One hand-drawn map depicts Durham as a village in the 1860s; later maps illustrate growing roadways, sewer systems and city infrastructure. The collection includes a 1937 Public Works map demarcating “white” and “Negro” streets and playgrounds, a Cold War-era map with annotations predicting potential damage from a nuclear bomb and a hand-colored annexation map showing Durham’s growth from 1890 to 2001.

The city now uses a geographic information system (GIS) for mapping, but city GIS analyst George Locke admits a fondness for the old hand-drawn maps, which engineers still use on occasion to field maintenance requests for the city’s water and sewer systems. Juxtaposing the historic maps with Google Earth also helps bring local history to life for students who otherwise might not appreciate Durham’s importance as an industrialising city in the post-Civil War