Thursday, September 14, 2017

Street Views of 1980s New York


Broadway in the mid 1980s had a lot to offer.  Karate Kid Part II was on at the cinema, Cats was being performed nightly at the theater and on Times Square you could buy just about any drug that you wanted. If that sounds appealing to you then get ready to jump into this new Street View time machine.

80s.NYC is a fantastic collection of vintage photographs of New York City street scenes, all taken in the 1980s. The photos were taken by the Finance Department of New York City in the middle of the 80s. In order to accurately assess building taxes the department photographed every single building in the five boroughs. The pictures could then be used to estimate property values.

Thanks to Brandon Liu and Jeremy Lechtzin you can now travel the city streets of 1980's New York City. Their 80s.NYC map allows you to browse the City's photographic collection by location. Just click anywhere on the map of the city and you can instantly view the vintage Street Views of that location. The map also includes a number of curated 'Stories'. These stories provide historical background to some of the more interesting photos and historical buildings in the collection.


If the sleaze of 1980s New York doesn't appeal then why not go back further in time to the beginning of the 20th Century. The New York Public Library has a complete collection of vintage photographs depicting Fifth Avenue, New York, from start to finish.

The photos provide a great resource for exploring New York at the turn of the last century. Especially if you use the library's own great Street View application. Street View, Then & Now: New York City's Fifth Avenue allows you to take a virtual stroll down Fifth Avenue in Street View while comparing today's New York to those vintage photos of the same locations taken at the beginning of the 20th Century.


If you enjoy exploring old vintage photographs of New York then you might want to help NYPL geo-tag its collection of vintage photographs of the city. The NYPL's Surveyor map is a citizen science project designed to hep the library index its collections of historical photographs by location.

Visit the Surveyor website and you will be shown a vintage photograph from the NYPL collection. All you have to do is show the location depicted in the photo by clicking on the interactive map. Luckily many of the photographs have an address in the photo's title or associated data. This makes the task relatively easy, even if you don't know New York very well.

Many of the photos in the NYPL's Digital Collections are in the public domain. This means that you will be able to use many of the photos that you geo-tag in your own interactive maps. Just like OldNYC has done with its interactive map of 40,000 vintage photos of New York from the NYPL’s photo collections.
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