Thursday, 28 February 2013

Historical Imagery - Berlin

As you may have noticed, we use Google Earth quite often to investigate ancient sites and how the landscape and site has changed in comparison with historical imagery.

Google Earth has a tool button that allows you to see historical imagery (if there is any) of an area  - in many cases the imagery dates can differ just a few years, but the changes can be drastic with urban expansion, natural disaster and other impacts vividly changing a landscape in just a short period of time.

You can view a period in the slightly more distant past over Berlin, Germany, a period that is particularly poignant to many people living today. Google Earth has extended its historical imagery for the site of the city of Berlin to two phases of aerial imagery during (1943/1945) and post World War Two (1953). The overlay appears to be made from a mosaic of aerial survey photographs, probably created by the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) and/or Royal Air Force (RAF), or aerial photographs confiscated from the German Air Ministry after WW2. For example, the United States National Archives Collection of Foreign Records Seized includes the following:

242.9.4 Other air force records
Aerial Photographs (8,000 items): Target dossiers of sites in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, with each dossier consisting of a map, an overprinted aerial photograph, and a site description, 1938-44; aerial photograph studies relating to specific types of targets in the United Kingdom, France, and the USSR, 1940-44; aerial mosaics of coastal areas in the United Kingdom and France, 1942-43; aerial prints and anaglyphs of central Italy, 1943-44; and aerial photographs of North African and Mediterranean sites, compiled for the German X Air Corps war diary, 1941-44. <http://www.archives.gov/research/guide-fed-records/groups/242.html>
These Aerial Photographs are linked to the records for Topographical Maps (242.25 Cartographic Records (General) (1910-18, 1935-45), and therefore probably include survey photographs.

Using the Historical Imagery tool you can change between the two phases and see the change from ruined buildings and bomb craters, to cleared land and some rebuilding.
Berlin 1953. Large parcels of city blocks of bombed ruins have been cleared. Image: Google Earth. Click to enlarge.
The capitals of London, Paris, Warsaw and Rome have also been overlain with historical aerial imagery. London and large areas of the south-east of Britain use one phase of imagery in 1945, Paris with two phases of 1943 and 1949, Warsaw with pre-WW2 imagery of 1935, and one of 1945, and Rome dating to 1943. Other smaller centers include Dortmund, Hanover, Leipzig, Cologne, Frankfurt, Wiesbaden, Koblenz, Nuremberg, Regensburg, Dresden, Wroclaw, Gdansk, Hamburg and Lubeck to name a few also have black and white historical imagery overlays.

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