posted by Thom Holwerda on Wed 30th Sep 2015 20:10 UTC
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An interesting website that lets you go back in time, to see what the island of Manhattan looked like before it was appropriated by the Dutch and turned into New Amsterdam (now New York, of course). The native forest, streams, pond - they're all gone, obviously, and quite a bit of land was 'added' to the island to accommodate the city's needs (quite fitting, considering its founders).

Have you ever wondered what New York was like before it was a city? Find out here, by navigating through the map of the city in 1609. You can find your block, explore the native landscape of today's famous landmarks, research the flora and fauna block by block, and help our team continue to rediscover 1609.

A few weeks ago, in honour of the 200 year anniversary of the Kingdom of The Netherlands, the Dutch Kadaster and Topografisch Bureau (do I really need to translate that?) launched a fantastic website showing how much The Netherlands has changed over just the past 200 years. The site shows a Google Maps-like interface containing all topographical maps of the country made over the past 200 years, so you can navigate around the country and use the timeline slider to see when changes took place. Compare the Zuiderzee area in 1815 to the same area (now IJsselmeer) today, and it's completely different (we're basically just removing all the water and reclaiming all the land to bring us back to how it was 2000 years ago).

Even at the very local level, you can find really interesting things. If you ever wanted a clear image of the absolutely devastating effect the government policy of "ruilverkaveling" (land swap) and the '70s ideals of the "malleable society" in its most literal form had on the landscape of The Netherlands (and who doesn't, right?), look no further than this 1973 map of my hometown/area. You can clearly see what it used to look like (the messy part), and the straight, ordered, boring, and artificial nothingness they turned it into. A few years later, the last remaining "old" landscape was destroyed, and now it all looks straight and orderly.

This was all done to maximise agricultural production and make it easier for local, provincial and the national government to initiate new construction projects. It also allowed water management engineers to completely redesign our water management, which is kind of important in the western half of the country, since it consists almost entirely out of polders.

I love how computers and the web can bring the old and the new together like this, and visualise so well something you otherwise would never be able to get this clear an image of.


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