The Temporal Earth Project aims to produce an online visualisation of history across all timescales. The concept is similar to Google Earth or Google Maps, but with the additional ability to travel back through time. The interface combines an animated map with an expressive timeline that can likewise be zoomed between timescales ranging from a few seconds to the entire age of the Earth.

A series of working prototypes have been developed and populated with data representing a vast range of topics in Australia’s history, archaeology and geology. This framework gives meaning to the historical dates learned in history classes, and can also act as a foundational context into which to position historical events, photographs, family histories, archaeological data and much more. The resultant proofs-of-concept demonstrate it is indeed possible to fulfil the Digital Earth vision to “put the full range of data about our planet and our history at our fingertips”.

Temporal Earth is the PhD project of Matthew Coller, a researcher at Monash University. This investigative phase of the project is nearing completion, and funding is now being sought to enable the next phase of development toward launch as an open-access, explorable visualisation of Australia’s past. A crowdfunding campaign is planned for early 2017.

Future phases of development plan to:

  • place historical archives, photos, newspapers, newsreels, etc into the animated historical framework
  • publish learning resources for students to actively explore history and discover resources answer questions
  • allow family historians to enter genealogical data (births, deaths, marriages etc) and see how these dates/places connect in space and time.
  • develop touchscreen interfaces to complement museums exhibitions, along with physical buttons to turn layers on/off, or see the provenance of a collection object
  • create an authoring system to author similar animated datasets for the rest of the world