One of the cameras used to capture the Vimy Ridge memorial for Google Maps' Street View.
Just in time for Sunday’s 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, Google has launched Google Maps’ street view of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial for people around the world to explore.
Before Friday, the memorial in France was just a dot on a map that users could only “drive” near in street view and see it from a distance while passing by. Now, after Google visited the location twice to capture the images, people can walk the memorial on their computer, mobile device or even in virtual reality.
“I’ve done a lot of our mapping work in the north and communities always talk about the value of collecting this imagery so they can tell their story,” said Aaron Brindle, Google Canada’s head of public affairs, in an interview. “That really resonated with me as we were going through Vimy. I realized there is a story here and some of that story can be told simply by showing.”
Brindle, who studied Canadian military history, was part of a four-person team that used 15 cameras, drones, modified backpacks, tripods and more to capture all of the content, which is now available for Google Maps users to explore.
People can use Google Maps’ street view to walk through the roads and paths that connect the various areas of the memorial, from the thousands of names of soldiers who were killed in battle to the monument itself and even the visitors’ centre. The team also mapped the inside of war trenches, which have been preserved and reconstructed to show the close distance between German and Canadian lines. Tunnel and trench works around the memorial that officers used to communicate and strategize within are also mapped, as well as the well-kept green space and areas of land left damaged to show the great bombardment on the site.
“Physically when you go there, you feel the weight of history on you. I never felt more Canadian than when I was in France. It really does shape your sense of identity,” Brindle said. “Virtually, you’re not going to replicate that, but Vimy for a while was just a tiny little dot on a map that was made up of two-dimensional lines and swiggles. Now this is an opportunity for people to really go there, explore it and understand it.”
A screenshot of Google Maps' street view of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial.
The monument itself is treated with functionality similar to a multi-floor building in Google Maps where you can click on its multiple storeys to rise up and down four floors.
“There is some amazing detail that Walter Seymour Allward did (on the monument) that’s at the very top, meaning if you physically go to Vimy today it would be hard to take that all in,” Brindle said. “So we used these unmanned aerial vehicles to capture imagery… You can see the closeup of some of the sculptures that are highlights of the memorial.”