The New York Public Library is creating a digital time-travel service for New York City with historical maps, collections rich in geospatial data, and the public’s help.
The NYC Space/Time Directory will make urban history accessible through a set of resources including: a searchable atlas of New York past, an historical location directory and geocoder, a set of APIs and data sets, and a discovery tool linking NYPL collections together in an historical and geographic context.
These explorations will provide a way for scholars, students, enthusiasts, and librarians to explore New York City across time periods and to add their own knowledge and expertise.
With the NYC Space/Time Directory we’re developing a programming model and freely accessible codebase for other cities, libraries, and individuals to map and explore history. Data sources are listed in our related resources section below and those interested in working with our open source projects can visit GitHub to get started!
Ready to travel through time and space? Explore our Space/Time resources below to start discovering and contributing to New York City history.
Help us put our collections of historical photographs on the map! Discover Library materials through the lens of geography and help identify locations depicted in our vast collections.
Maps by Decade shows digitized New York City street maps from the New York Public Library’s Map Division published between 1850 and 1950, grouped by decade. Use it to compare urban geography across time, and marvel at the countours of New York City’s past.
View a historic image from the New York Public Library’s Digital Collections, every time you open a new tab.
Contribute to the Space/Time Directory and explore library materials with these interactive tools built on historic maps, our vast photography collections, and more!
Kill time and make history with this game for transcribing place names, addresses, and building information from old maps.
An online tool for browsing and rectifying thousands of public domain maps, all free to use without restriction.
The table below lists datasets used in the NYC Space/Time Directory. The data files are in the NDJSON format (one JSON object per line) — for more information about the Space/Time data model, see GitHub.
See the spacetime-data repository on GitHub for examples on how to use Space/Time data.
Boundaries of thousands of maps from Map Warper, NYPL’s tool for rectifying historical maps
Historical building footprints, addresses and building names from Building Inspector
Building footprints from William Perris’ 1854 Maps of the City of New York, traced by NYPL librarians
Boundaries of Manhattan’s administrative regions, from 1703 to 1895
Manhattan and Brooklyn streets, traced from New York City insurance atlases
1900 census enumeration districts for Manhattan and the Bronx, traced from maps created by Barbara Hillman
building-inspector-nyc-streets D I
Building Inspector addresses combined with data from the
surveyor D C
Crowdsourced locations of NYPL’s photo collections
Churches in New York City, 1790 to 1856 — from Evangelical Gotham: Religion and the Making of New York City by Kyle Roberts
Draft datasets are currently being worked on; they are not finished, and things like field names might change.
Crowdsourced datasets are not static, new objects are added as new crowdsourced submissions come in.
Inferred datasets are created by combining data from multiple datasets. For more information about combining datasets, see our tutorial on historical addresses.
Historical Data & Maps at NYPL is a series of public workshops and talks which will highlight different parts of New York City’s history using data and maps from the NYC Space/Time Directory. In this series, we will focus on making new maps with old data using open source mapping tools, and learning how to use the Library’s open data sets and APIs to tell stories about New York City’s history by finding and combining materials from the NYPL’s Digital Collections.
Past and upcoming events:
The following tutorials demonstrate how you can use tools and datasets from the NYC Space/Time Directory:
|From Paper Maps to the Web: A DIY Digital Maps Primer||Map Warper, GeoJSON, Mapbox.js|
|Historical Addresses & NYC Space/Time Directory Data||Space/Time data, Leaflet, D3.js|
|Tracing Historical Streets with QGIS||QGIS, Map Warper|
|DIY Historic Walking Tours||Map Warper, GeoJSON, Leaflet|
The table below lists open source repositories made for the NYC Space/Time Directory that might be useful in other projects, too. More repositories can be found on the project’s GitHub page.
|Simple JSON API for small crowdsourcing apps used in different NYC Space/Time Directory projects||Node.js + PostgreSQL|
|Extract/Transform/Load tool for NYC Space/Time Directory data||Node.js|
|Command line tools for NYC Space/Time Directory data||Node.js|
|Command-line tool for downloading images from Digital Collections||Node.js|
|Detects columns and connects indented lines in hOCR files||Node.js|
|Module to normalize New York City street and avenue names||Node.js|
|Module to parse lines from OCR’d New York City directories into separate fields, such as names, occupations, and addresses.||Node.js|
|Crowdsourced extraction and correction of building footprints and addresses from historical maps||Ruby on Rails|
|Web interface for crowdsourced georectification of historical maps||Ruby on Rails|
|Python tools which use computer vision to extract building outlines and other features from historical building atlases||Python|
For in-depth information on all the parts, components and datasets that make up the NYC Space/Time Directory (and how they work together), see the project’s architecture page.
The following posts have been published about the NYC Space/Time Directory on NYPL’s blog:
|Get NYPL Digital Collections Tab for Your Browser|
|Surveyor Geotagging Tool Puts NYPL Photos on the Map|
|The NYC Space/Time Directory: Building the Future of NYC’s Past|
Other websites and publications have also written stories about the project:
|Help the New York Public Library Geotag Enigmatic NYC Photos||Hyperallergic|
|This Crowdsourced Project Is Mapping Mysterious Photos Of Lost New York||Fast Company CO.DESIGN|
|A new NYPL app is basically Tinder for NYC history nerds||TimeOut New York|
|The New York Public Library Has a “Digital Time-Travel Service” for Its Historical Maps||Hyperallergic|
|The Quest To Build A Google Maps For Old New York||Fast Company CO.DESIGN|
Take a peek into the Space/Time Directory workshop! We’re sharing prototypes, proof of concepts, and visualizations the project as they’re made.
Peel away layers of the city’s history with this visualization layering maps from 1660 through 2014.
Take a tour of the Fifth Avenue, past and present! Compare the photos of Fifth Avenue in 1911 and today.
In the age of segregation, the Green Book listed hotels, restaurants, bars, and gas stations where Black travelers were welcomed. Map out trips you would take with this tool.
Browse related Library resources including digitized materials, data sets, APIs, and much more!
NYPL’s database of digitized collections with new items being added every day, featuring prints, photographs, maps, manuscripts, streaming video, and more.
An experiment to help patrons understand and explore what is contained in the NYPL Public Domain release. Browse by century, genre, collection, or color.
The Community Oral History Project documents, preserves, and celebrates the history of NYC’s unique neighborhoods with stories from people who have experienced it firsthand.
An experimental interface of biographical data describing photographers, studios, manufacturers, and others involved in the production of photographic images.
Over 10,000 transcribed records from the historic mortgage and bond ledgers of the Emigrant Savings Bank. Browse and download the records, or pitch in on verifying the transcriptions!
Create and share 3D images from the stereograph collections of The New York Public Library (and others). You can even use your own Flickr photos.
Search and explore the dishes and locations of 17,545 historic menus from New York City and beyond.