Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Historic Pictures of New York

There are several databases which shouldn't be shunned if you ever look for historic photographs of New York. If the newfangled digital Municipal Gallery's server is too busy, here I provide some alternatives.

NYC Municipal Gallery
On April 25, 2012, the NYC Department of records published 870,000 photos online. This is part of a digitization process of more than 2,2 million pictures in the archive reaching back to the midst of the 19th century. Crimes scenes, shot as evidence by police are here, the famous building portraits and photos documenting great projects like the building of the Brooklyn Bridge (by city employed photog Eugene de Salignac who was honored with the exhibition New York Rises at the Museum of the City of New York). Prints can be ordered as well.

NYC Municipal Gallery

NYPL Digital Collections

The vast collections of the New York Public Library contain more than 800,000 pictures alone. More than 51,000 are accessible through the mere keyword New York, but I recommend finer approaches by using the subject search (more than 91,000 results) or the matching keywords around it.

Do absolutely NOT MISS the single collections, there are wonderful troves to be found, like the hundreds of photos Berenice Abbott took for her book Changing New York: Photographs by Berenice Abbott, 1935-1938. Head for the All Collection Guides to see more than a dozen digital collections about New York City alone!

If you prefer to just get bounced around the most intriguing old photos of the city, try NYPL's Pinterest.

New York Public Library Digital Collections

MCNY Digital Collections

The wonderful collection of the Museum of the City of New York can be combed by theme, borough, featured photographer or format. Some of the photographers were honored with specific exhibitions, just recently

Collection of the Museum of the City on New York

Flickr: The Commons

Amongst the many photographic collections on the web which are not just specifically about New York, Flickr Commons should be noted quite at the start of the list. The participating institutions add a never ending stream of historic photos in the public domain for easy access online. The most relevant for the City of New York are probably the New York Public Library, the Library of Congress, and the George Eastman House.

Flickr: Commons

Other good photo spots

Other good places to see New York related photography are for example the Jewish Museum, which recently had a great show about the Radical Camera: New York's Photo League, 1936-1951, or the International Center of Photography, which actually shows until September 2, 2012, grim photos in Weegee: Murder is my business.

And then there are countless little museums and galleries sporting New York related photography. But that would lead us astray right here...

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