Experience the 9/11 Memorial in Google Earth

Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 9:20 AM


The 9/11 Memorial organization, a non-profit group responsible for care-taking the 9/11 museum and memorial park, first contacted Google in 2008 to explore ideas on how our technology might be used to enhance the experience for people visiting the museum (currently under construction) and on its website. Several ideas were proposed, including the use of Street View, which the group added to their Make History website in 2009.

We met at Google’s New York City office and learned about the many creative exhibit ideas that were planned for the museum, as well as the design concepts behind the 9/11 memorial park. I found it very fascinating. I couldn’t help but wonder: how can this be shared with the world? How can we enable everyone, anywhere to learn more about events of that day, and experience what proposes to be an unforgettable museum and park?

The 9/11 Memorial designers presented artist renderings and physical models of the proposed construction, both of which were impressive, but the audience for each is limited to the small population of the public who can see them in-person. The meeting could have concluded with a list of proposals for the 9/11 organization to pursue, however we left feeling as though Google could and should do more. The events of that day are etched in all of our memories, and we felt obligated to identify an appropriate way to honor the families of the victims and support the organization whose charter it was to preserve our collective memories.

Our proposal of course was Google Earth. The products’ popularity and reach would make it an ideal platform for people to visit and explore the 9/11 site - virtually. Virtual tourism is one of the most common uses of the Google Earth, and, it’s been used to represent both historical and future buildings in the past, so we thought it would be fitting to create a 3D model of the 9/11 memorial so that people anywhere could envision what the memorial will look like when it’s completed next year.


We requested design drawings, artist renderings, and any other visual materials that could be used to construct a 3D model, and went to work. Mason Thrall, one of our most experienced 3D modelers was the first to volunteer to develop a model of the park. The 9/11 Memorial group incorporated the Google Earth plugin into their website, and developed KML placemarks that help orient visitors to the site. Take a 3D tour of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum within the context of the surrounding landscape of lower Manhattan.

The 9/11 memorial is scheduled to open next year, however you can experience today via Google Earth on their website.