Using technology from today to explore the past

I’m sure that you’ll have seen Deep Zoom technology in use – either in demonstrations or on websites. It underpins many other applications such as Bing Maps, PhotoSynth and Image Composite Editor. Several schools such as Shireland have used Deep Zoom to organise and present learning resources, whilst others see it as a useful tool to enhance project work and lesson activities. One of our partners, Shoothill, have created a few interesting websites which use DeepZoom, that have a curriculum relevance.


Shoothill TimeMap () is a system for displaying historic maps, documents and photos, overlaid on current maps and satellite images from Bing Maps.  The system uses a “TimeScope” to move around the modern world and a “TimeSlider” to move through time. The demonstration version created by Shoothill has Shrewsbury and parts of London in it, and I bet that you’d make the head of Geography’s eyes light up if you show them.

Why TimeMap?

One of the problems of overlaying ‘complete’ historical maps over Bing (or Google Maps) is that it is very easy to lose your bearings, as so much has changed over time.  So, the basic idea behind TimeMap is to allow the user to get their position of interest via Bing Maps in ‘the modern world’, and easily reveal the past in ‘historical mode’.  It also allows the user to travel through time by using a ‘time slider’ that reveals different maps of the same place at different times.  Right now, they have processed maps from the 1800’s to today. For the demo version, TimeMap is working on certain areas across these different times for the town of Shrewsbury (their home town on the border of England and Wales and the birthplace of Charles Darwin) and most of central London.

It’s very simple to use, because you basically drag a box around the scheme, which acts like a time-travelling X-Ray machine. As you drag it over an area, it shows you the historical maps – and you can slide back through time over three centuries to see what used to be there.


imageAnd on the Options menu, you can easily switch between Historic London and Historic Shrewsbury. The London maps are fascinating, as you plot the changes in certain parts of the city – eg around the City, and the historical areas. The System can also be used for historic aerial photography and if you try the “Historic Photo’s” option you will get an aerial shot of Heathrow Airport in 1966.

They’ve just created their TimeMap for Berlin too



Tiger Mosaic

Shoothill has recently been working with Flora a Fauna International too, using DeepZoom. The FFI is one of the world’s oldest conservation societies, and was one of the founders of the World Wide Fund for Nature. To help publicise their work (and to coincide with the International Year of Biodiversity and the Chinese year of the Tiger), Shoothill has created what they believe to be the biggest (and hopefully one of the best) Deep Zoom images in the world of one of the world most endangered species: the Sumatran Tiger.

The image you see is made from 180,000 cell images of endangered species from around the world, but because of its enormous size it is very difficult to tell it is a mosaic at all, until you start to zoom in.

imageThe Auto Mode is very useful – it would be a good thing to put up on a whiteboard whilst you’re waiting for a class to settle down, or to stimulate a discussion about biodiversity.



Comments (1)

  1. Steve says:

    As a consultant working with schools in Shropshire this looks great the only real problem I have with it is that the map for 2010 is several years out of date!

    Steve Beard

    School Improvement Consultant


    Shropshire Council

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