“You can’t be a Nice Nelly and take news pictures” …Wegee

by Sally Steele

This circa 1983-1988 photo provided by the New York City Municipal Archives shows 172 Norfolk Street, which is now the Angel Orensanz Foundation, in New York, AP Photo, New York City Municipal Archive

~In a city already replete with imagery, this new contribution adds another rich layer…

from the New York City Department of Records~

The view from New Jersey: A man peers across the Hudson River into Manhattan from his perch on the George Washington Bridge on December 22, 1936, AP Photo, New York City Municipal Archives, WPA Federal Writers’ Project, Jack Rosenzweig


“Welcome to the New York City Municipal Archives Online Gallery of over 870,000 images. Selected from the world-class historical collections of the Archives, most of these unique photographs, maps, motion picture and audio recordings are being made accessible for the first time. Visitors are invited to explore and search the collections individually, or across all collections by keyword or any of the advanced search criteria. The gallery includes many complete collections; for others, only representative samples are currently on display. Visitors are encouraged to return frequently as new content will be added on a regular basis. Patrons may order reproductions in the form of prints or digital files; most images can be licensed for commercial use. Please see the order page for further details.”

“The project was four years in the making, part of the department’s mission to make city records accessible to everyone,” said assistant commissioner Kenneth Cobb. “We all knew that we had fantastic photograph collections that no one would even guess that we had.” Taken mostly by anonymous municipal workers, some of the images have appeared in publications but most were accessible only by visiting the archive offices in lower Manhattan over the past few years.


New Yorkers cool off in the Astoria public pool with the Hell Gate railroad bridge looming in the background in the summer of 1940, AP Photo, New York City Municipal Archives


The gallery includes images from the largest collection of criminal justice evidence in the English-speaking world, a repository that holds glass-plate photographs taken by the New York City Police Department.


Building roads: Workers lay bricks to pave 28th Street in Manhattan on October 2, 1930, AP Photo, New York City Municipal Archives, Borough President Manhattan


It also features more than 800,000 color photographs taken with 35mm cameras of every city building in the mid-1980s to update the municipal records, and includes more than 1,300 rarely seen images taken by local photographers of the Depression-era Works Progress Administration.


The Third Avenue elevated train rumbles across lower Manhattan in this undated photo, City Hall can be seen in the background, AP Photo, New York City Municipal Archives


Because of technological and financial constraints, the digitized gallery does not include the city’s prized collection of 720,000 photographs of every city building from 1939 to 1941. But the database is still growing, and the department plans to add more images.


In this circa 1890 photo, a pair of girls walk east along 42nd Street. Acker, Merrall and Condit wine shop delivery wagons are on the right and the C.C. Shayne Furrier sign can be seen on the roof overhead, AP Photo, New York City Municipal Archives, DeGragario Collection (New York Camera Club)

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