Friday, September 5, 2008

Exploring Washington's Geographic Past

Interesting article this week in the Washington Post. The Beginning of the Road looks at a project to digitally recreate the topographic history of Washington DC. A (slightly) interactive map allows viewers to compare the outline of the city today with the geography of 1791. The most striking change is that the Potomac is half as wide today as it was in the time of Thomas Jefferson, and that the World War Two, Lincoln and Jefferson memorials are all located on land reclaimed from the river--as we see on the graphic above. The green rectangle represents the mall. (See also the little video embedded in the body of the first story.)

The effort to digitally explore the geographic history of Washington is similar to what the The Mannahatta Project is doing in in New York (see this post). As the digital tools become less expensive and awareness of the possibilities increases we can expect to see similar projects across the nation. In fact you can get similar results with digital image of an early city map and Google Earth by using the overlay function.

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