When I had a business documenting the historical use of sites to identify possible contaminants in the soil or environmentally harmful activities, I always made sure to take a look at the aerial photos in the UBC Department of Geography Information Centre.
These are a valuable additional resource to use in collaboration with Fire Insurance Maps, Directories, and other historical documents to get as complete a picture as possible of a site in a specific moment in the past. (I’ll be doing a post on Fire Insurance maps later this year – one of my favourite resources!!)
Although GIS and mapping have been able to consolidate an impressive amount of recent and current data into digital maps and documents , tracking down historical information about a specific site at a specific moment in time is not as straight-forward or accessible.
Aerials show a lot of things that aren’t necessarily obvious from other resources – or would take some expensive mapping or time to compare information from a range of historical documents.
But by looking at an aerial photo you can make out things like the topography, vegetation, building footprints, roads, and urban geography of a given place at about a one-decade interval. Useful, interesting, and fun 🙂
If you’re looking for aerial photos of Vancouver, the UBC Geography Dept has them going back to the 1930s.
The department has also created a page of information and links to aerial photos for other jurisdictions, mostly Canadian and American