National Geographic shares rich map content with the world via Google Maps Engine

Friday, December 6, 2013 at 8:33 AM


(Cross-posted from the Google Enterprise Blog)

Editor's note: Today’s guest blog is about the newly launched Google Maps Engine public data program, which lets organizations distribute their map content to consumers using Google’s cloud infrastructure. Frank Biasi, Director of Digital Development at National Geographic Maps, tells us how his organization is participating in the public data program and sharing over 500 maps to the world.

Why are maps important for National Geographic?
Founded in 1888, National Geographic Society aims to inspire people to care about the planet. As one of the world’s largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations, we’ve funded more than 10,000 research, conservation and exploration projects. Maps and geography are integral to everything we do; it’s even part of our name. Over our long history, we’ve created and published more than 800 reference, historic and travel maps.


Medieval England (1979)


Dominican Republic: Adventure Map

Why did you want to take part in the Google Enterprise Maps public data program?
People have collected our magazine fold-out maps for over a hundred years, and many of those maps are sequestered away in attics and garages. The public data program gives us the opportunity to release our amazing map collection to the wider world.

We will also use Maps Engine to overlay our maps with interactive editorial content, so the maps can “tell stories” and raise awareness about environmental issues and historic events. Anyone will be able to access our free public maps, but we also plan to sell or license high-resolution and print versions to raise funds for our nonprofit mission.

Why did you choose to work with Google and not another maps technology partner?
We needed a high-performance mapping platform to produce and publish hundreds of interactive maps. We also wanted a relatively simple web-based workflow that could be used by non-technical employees and wouldn’t require any programming or desktop software. Google Maps Engine offers a good blend of robust technology and simple usability. Of course, Google will also help our maps get discovered by more people, including National Geographic fans, students and educators and travelers. We expect travel and home decor businesses, publishers and brand marketers will also want to buy or license them.

Which Google Maps Engine advanced tools do you use the most?
We use all the features. We load data, create layers, combine layers into maps, publish individual layers as maps and integrate multiple maps. We use both the raster and vector capabilities to put descriptors, links, pop-ups and thumbnails on top of maps. For example, we could use Maps Engine to add articles, photography and information from National Geographic expeditions to our ocean maps. These interactive maps, which we can display in 2D or 3D using Maps Engine, will allow people to follow along with expeditions as they unfold or retrace past expeditions.

What’s the most exciting thing about participating in the Google Maps Engine public data program?
Google Maps Engine lets us turn our maps into interactive full-screen images that can be panned and zoomed and overlaid with tons of great data. We are proud of our century-long cartographic tradition. The Maps Engine public data program will help get our maps out into the world where more people can enjoy and learn from them.