Georeferencing helps explore history


Matching old photos to modern locations

From ancient Greek mythology to the drones that fly over today’s streets, society has always been fascinated with bird’s eye views of the Earth.

Aerial photography offers a unique perspective on familiar locations. However, places change over time – in a hundred years, how will people recognize what they see in an aerial photo from today?

The FIU GIS Center will be addressing this at History Miami’s 23rd annual Miami International Map Fair, the largest map fair in the western hemisphere.  The FIU team will be presenting georeferenced aerial photographs of Miami growing and adapting through the decades. Georeferencing refers to the process of aligning geographic data to an image or system, so that the images can be located and compared to their modern-day counterparts. A time animation demo will show the development of Miami through the years.

The collection of photos the GIS Center will be presenting dates back to 1924, and is one of the earliest sets of aerial photographs of the city available (Miami was incorporated in 1896). Georeferencing this and other collections has high historical and research value, both for faculty and students who will benefit from the information in their research, and the larger community, who can learn more about how their neighborhoods have come to be.

“This work allows us to track the urban morphology of the city and see how Miami has evolved, both physically and socially,” says Maps & Imagery User Services Coordinator Matthew Toro, responsible for georeferencing the photos.

In 1924, Brickell Key didn’t exist. Construction on I-95 wouldn’t begin for another 30 years, and historic neighborhoods such as Liberty City had yet to develop. As Toro points out, “you can actually see the city growing into life.”

The Miami International Map Fair will take place Feb 5-7.