Posted on October 2nd, 2018

Mapping for Good – October 2018 – OldNYC.org

While I’ve loved writing all of the Mapping for Good articles we’ve done, I must admit that they are the most fun when I’ve got a particular connection to the place in question. To not admit an intense bias in this column would be criminal, yet I’d like to think that my cherry picking of topics and regions close to me leads to more passionate examinations of the many fun (and important) mapping projects out there doing good for the world. My time in Boulder (and our being based there) compelled me to highlight the Falling Fruit Project (started in town) years ago, my growing up in California led me to discuss the California Coastal Records Project and my love for the City of Chicago drew me to mention their health map at one point.

If there’s any trend here to be found beyond the personal asides, it’s an intense obsession with maps that are, well, cool! With that trend accidentally established at this point, I’m very excited to highlight a project dear to my heart and one that I hope will be replicated worldwide: oldNYC.org!

A screenshot of OldNYC with the map’s extent hovered over the borough of Manhattan in New York City.

OldNYC.org is an extension of the New York Public Library’s massive archive of historical photos. The project is simple yet incredible: NYPL took thousands and thousands of photos from the 1870’s to the 1970’s and geocoded them to stitch together a map of New York’s past. On the vast majority of street corners in Manhattan you’ll find at least one historic photo represented as a red dot that can be clicked on to view in a pop-up. The project extends to the other boroughs as well, with areas such as Downtown Brooklyn, the South Bronx and Astoria, Queens having tons of photos.

While the range of photos is over a hundred years, the bulk of them are from around the Great Depression and into the WWII era:

“The images all come from the New York Public Library’s Milstein Collection. While many photographers contributed to the collection, the majority of its images are the work of Percy Loomis Sperr, who documented changes to the city from the late 1920s to the early 1940s.”

As briefly mentioned above, NYPL took each photo and assigned it coordinates, which the mapping software they used can then interpret and plot:

“The creators of this site associated latitudes and longitudes to the images in the Milstein collection. This process is known as geocoding. Doing this allows the images to be placed at points on a map, which enables new ways of exploring this collection.”

Pretty cool eh?

To learn more about OldNYC visit www.oldnyc.org or go the New York Public Library in person to learn more!

Fletcher Berryman
Cloud Tamer
(970) 710-0909
fletcher@apollomapping.com

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