Bending Google Earth To My Will

This post is going to be a somewhat functional (how to get this to work) but will also attempt to sketch out some of the ways I problem solve as roadblocks occur. I don’t know that sketching out problem solving in this way will help anyone but I hope that it might.

It’s been a while since I’ve done any serious work in Google Earth. I’m reorienting myself and learning a few things in the process. My initial goal was to get some easy content from Google Earth Layers (and now the integrated “Earth Gallery”) into folders and associated with some of our history standards- essentially easy interactive content for teachers who don’t want to search for it. Google Earth has never caught on like I believed it would/should and I’d like to jumpstart use of the program and provide more digital content for social studies in general.


I found the addition of the “Earth Gallery” to be a mixed blessing, with the mix leaning heavily towards unfortunate. There is lots of good content there but it seems to be meant to stay there. I can’t find any way to copy that content to “My Places”- dragging it didn’t work, nor did control-clicking (right click equivalent) give me any options that would help at the folder or individual item level. That’s a problem.

I don’t want to be stuck giving people search strings to use to get this content and then have to have them duplicate those searches with their students en masse. Once “Earth Gallery” item is added it does remain at the bottom of your “Layers” list until you delete it but I couldn’t figure out a way to add folders or organize information in that section. Nor could I distribute this information to teachers or students in any way that made sense to me.

So, on to attempt 2. I recalled how in iTunes you can at least generate a web accessible link from inside iTunes and I thought this might be the case with the “Earth Gallery.” No dice. You can right click on the preview image generated in “Earth Gallery” and get a URL but it doesn’t work in your browser.1 Another dead end.

Attempt 3 involved looking online for an online version of the “Earth Gallery.” It exists. I can get to a Lewis and Clark map just like the one I access in Google Earth. But I’m just as stuck. I can’t download this file in order to put it in context. I’m also prevented from altering the information provided. Both of these are things I want to do.

Attempt 4 ended up being successful. It started with a fairly simple Google search filtype:kmz "Lewis and Clark"which restricts our search to actual KMZ files (Google Earth files) and gives these results.2 About 6 links down is what I was searching for. It’s a link to Rumsey Historical Maps and you can view it in Google Maps.3 Now we are in business. All of these files can be downloaded as individual KMZ files and then added to “My Places” in Google Earth where you can organize and alter them (at least portions).

Next up will be what I wanted to change and why I felt it was worth all that hassle.

1 404 result unfortunately

2 While Google Advanced Search is harder to find, it remains key to how I search for things. If you do it enough you don’t need the WYSIWG portion and can just type in what you need.

3 It is worth keeping in mind the Google Earth can publish to Google Maps and vice versa.

2 thoughts on “Bending Google Earth To My Will

  1. The historical maps in the Rumsey’s layer is one of the few pieces that’s actually easy to capture. If you open one of the maps so that it’s viewed as an overlay, it will be placed in the Temporary Places section. You can then save it as a KMZ file or drag it into My Places and use it in a tour.

    I agree, however, that most of the materials in Layers is stuck there. On top of that, most are very confusing to use, especially for someone new to the program. For example, a couple of the layers in the Oceans folder are actually tours but there’s no apparent way to find the start of the tour.

    Even with all the frustration, I still love Google Earth.

  2. I’m a fan as well.

    I see options to save things in the layers area (and there’s a good bet the Rumsey content is there as well) but the same options don’t seem to apply to the “Earth Gallery.” I don’t know why that’d be the case. Seems a strange choice.

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