Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Researching Geography with Google Maps Gallery

Looking for the collision rate at a particular intersection? Want to know the unemployment rate in a state by county? Or view climate trends for a region of the United States? This type of information is available, but it often takes a long time and extensive digging through government, nonprofit, or business records to find it.

Google is trying to make such geospatial information easier to find Online. In February, Google introduced Google Maps Gallery, a service that expands Google Maps to include current and historical public map data from partnering companies and government entities. Google Maps Gallery brings public map data that exists in diverse locations into one interactive, searchable atlas.

Google Maps Gallery already contains a variety of maps. I was able to find:
  • An affordable housing heat map for Springfield, MA;
  • A map of Florida emergency evacuation routes and hurricane evacuation zones;

  • Maps of North America at the time of the Lewis and Clark expedition.

The information on these maps would have taken me at least half an hour to find on my own. I spent less than five minutes finding the information on Google Maps Gallery, and the information is an easy to use and understand format. If I want, I can even save the maps and important them into Google Earth.

Google Maps Gallery is just starting out, and its database of maps is still small. The Gallery currently includes maps from National Geographic Society, World Bank Group, United States Geological Survey, Florida Emergency Management and the City of Edmonton. But Google is confident that more organizations will be adding their maps over time.

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