Time Travel From Your Computer
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg unveiled last week New York City’s first-ever online archive of photographs, maps, motion pictures and other media that span more than 160 years of city history.
The gallery is drawn from the New York City Municipal Archives and contains 870,000 unique archived images and media, making it the largest collection of its kind in the world. Most of the collection is being made accessible for the first time and visitors to the site, www.nyc.gov, may search the gallery by individual image or an entire collection group.
The Departments of Citywide Administrative Services and Records and Information Services produced the online archive and will continue to add newly digitized content. The online gallery is accessible at no cost, and high-quality reprints may be purchased.
“Using 21st century tools, we’re making New York City’s rich, vibrant past more accessible than ever before,” said Bloomberg. “With its treasure-trove of photos, maps and other multimedia, this one-of-a-kind gallery will give New Yorkers a new look on our city.”
“I would like to commend Deputy Commissioner [Eileen] Flannelly and her dedicated team, who have brought their fabulous customer service at Records to a new, historic level that will extend world-class images of our great city across the globe,” said Edna Wells Handy, commissioner of the Departments of Citywide Administrative Services and Records and Information Services.
The gallery includes a series of 25 historic collections that total more than 30,000 images. One collection includes color photos of every building in all five boroughs that were taken for tax assessment purposes in the 1980s. Another includes 1,300 black-and-white 1930s Depressionera photographs taken by the New York City Unit of the Works Progress Administration Federal Writers’ Project, taken to illustrate the guide series.
Selections from other collections were culled from Central Park drawings; estate and farm maps; and pictures from every mayoral administration from Fiorello La- Guardia through Rudolph Giuliani.
The online gallery also makes available for the first time selections of more than 15,000 large-format photographs taken by Eugene de Salignac. De Salignac, an exceptionally talented photographer employed by the Department of Bridges from 1906 to 1934, was assigned to photograph the city’s bridge, road, and building construction projects during that time period.
A complementary collection features extensive photographic documentation of the city’s waterfront, showing periods was it was intensely developed. The gallery’s oldest photograph dates from 1858.
Visitors to the online gallery are also invited to explore the Municipal Archives holdings at their headquarters in the landmark Surrogate’s Court Building at 31 Chambers St. in Manhattan.
The Department of Records, through its unique library, is the portal to both historical and contemporary information concerning city government. The Records Management Division provides for and facil- itates the professional administration, storage, and retrieval of the working records of dozens of city agencies, the courts, and district attorneys.
The Municipal Archives preserves and provides public access to the records of the city’s government. The wealth of documentation, including photographs, moving images, sound recordings, maps, architectural drawings, ledgers, and office records help keep alive the collective memory of the nation’s largest city.
The gallery’s address is www.nyc.gov/html/records/html/galle ry/home.shtml; as of press time, however, the archive remains inactive due to overwhelming demand. Readers are advised to regularly check the website to see if it is up and running.