Vintage aerial photos of rural America
July 22, 2016 9:54 AM   Subscribe is a photo archive of over 25 million photos from flyover country (PDF), capturing a time and place that may no longer exist. Some of us rural folk may have grown up with aerial pictures of their farms on the walls. My family had two pictures, one from 1967 and one from 1983. Pretty cool archive if you're interested in that kind of thing. Previously something similar.
posted by cass (10 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Awesome. My grandparents had photos of the NoDak farms of their families, and we had photos of our boondocks place. Shame none of them are up yet, but looks like they'll get there!
posted by fraula at 10:05 AM on July 22, 2016

I am familiar with these from my childhood. Oh yes. More so than I wish to be, really.
posted by Naberius at 10:14 AM on July 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

This looks like an excellent resource for landscape archaeology, although it's a shame that the photos have not been ortho-rectified. Yes, that'd certainly be a lot of work, but it beats trying to search by addresses or by landmark names.

Actually, on looking closer, I'm baffled by their UX decisions. I drilled down to the state and county I grew up in, and then found they had scanned the sortie maps from when they were flown. I used those to find the roll of film closest to my house, more or less, then looked at the entire index for my county. I drilled down to a roll of film that I guessed would have gone past my house.

And when I get to the roll page, it shows the approximate flight path on a Google Maps inset. I was right about where the sortie went, but that's a lot of guess work and futzing about.

If you're already doing the work to locate the sorties on a map digitally, why would you not allow users to drill down to their location of interest via digital map? YOU ALREADY DID THE HARD PART.

Just making that available would improve this site 1000 fold. I understand not doing the ortho-rectification, sure, but if you've got approximate locations digitized already...
posted by ursus_comiter at 10:27 AM on July 22, 2016 [4 favorites]

I'm also not excited by getting quoted $250 for a digital version of ONE photo.
posted by ursus_comiter at 10:28 AM on July 22, 2016

Iowa has freely available orthorectified historical imagery from USDA from the 1930s to 1990s. See for more information.
posted by hobu at 10:35 AM on July 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

Yes, same for Rhode Island.
posted by ursus_comiter at 10:45 AM on July 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you want to browse a LOT of different image sets, USGS' Long Term Archives have a ton, but it's not the most easily browsable set. Most of those collections link to Earth Explorer, and they don't all appear on the Google Earth-type multi-resolution map.

If you want to fly up and down the California coast through decades past, there's California Coastal Records Project (previously). High resolution images for free.

"Since 1968, the Image Archive Program has been serving New Mexico and the US Southwest region as a geospatial information and distribution center," except their historic aerial photography archive dating from the mid-1930’s that covers New Mexico, portions of Arizona and Texas can be viewed onsite at EDAC only. Boo. The City of Albuquerque has an online Historical Aerial Viewer, but you have to have Silverlight installed to use it.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:56 AM on July 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

This is pretty awesome. And that's even accounting for the fact that when I first saw the URL I was hoping, in my weird little nerdy heart, that it would be a page filled with links to buy old fashioned TV/Radio antennas. For real, I have one that I hung up in my room because they're awesome.
posted by chimaera at 1:06 PM on July 22, 2016

When I was a kid in NW Iowa my Grandpa always had an aerial picture of his farm on the wall, for as long as I can remember. It was in color. At the time I knew it cost like $12 to develop film into 4x6 pictures, so I always assumed that huge color 36x24 picture cost him a lot, like hundreds, which was above my pay grade of understanding at like 6 years old. I spent a LOT of time on that farm and like to think I can identify it from any angle.

I was able to find it until the 1970 one. I looked at the plane flight paths and checked all of them, but never saw a match. That UI is so goddamn clunky.

I was happy to identify the nearby farms from 1980 on though. I get some glee from someone tangentially related that might look up their family name and find that farm near my Grandpa's.

Such a good idea, such a bad UI.
posted by sanka at 5:31 PM on July 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

I tried to find our country place in WI. Yeah, that's one useless interface.
posted by werkzeuger at 7:10 PM on July 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

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