There is a lot to history. I mean, a lot. Go ahead and think about your favorite hobby. Or think about that one thing that you are absolutely obsessed with.
I can guarantee that whatever you just thought of, there is a history to it. Nothing comes into this world from nothing, and so everything has some sort of past. With so much history to cover, there is no way I can come close to writing about even half of the amazing hidden history that surrounds us. This is why once a week I’m recommending an interesting website that helps cover the many gaps in my knowledge and expertise. All of these websites are free to access as of the time of the recommendation and all can be found over on the Resources page as well!
This week I have a really cool website to share. Street View of 1940’s New York is an interactive map of New York City. On this map are hundreds, if not thousands, of dots. Each dot is a photo of a building, circa 1940’s New York! As the website explains, these photos were taken between 1939 and 1941. The Municipal Archives finally finished digitizing and tagging the photos in 2018. What this website does is place all the photos on a map and makes the photos easily accessible!
There’s not a whole lot of information about the website itself. Julien Boilen created the map. Honestly, the best thing about this site is the sheer elegance. You can search for a specific property, or you can follow along the streets to get a great feel for the 1940s version of the city. The map has two modes: a “satellite” view in black and white, and a “map” view similar to Google Maps.
You also have a link to head over to the 1980s version of the site, which is not yet as complete as the 1940s version. A different group of people is also working on the 1980s version of the site. It’s still worth a look! You can leave the creator a tip, which I highly recommend based on the work put into this map.
My favorite part of this site is the Outtakes. Just like we do today, the photographers in the 1940s fumbled with the camera, accidentally took a picture when they didn’t mean to, or had someone walk in front of the camera just as they were taking the photo. There are pictures of kids and cars. There are pictures of people’s coat pockets, blurry photos of cops, and the insides of restaurants interspersed with rejected photos of buildings. I could scroll through the pictures for hours.
Why This Site is Awesome
One of the things that photos are great at doing is making history real. People know that the things in the books happened to real people in real places, but actually being able to see it makes it real on a whole new level. And that’s why I love this particular site- it makes 1940s New York City real in a way that books just can’t. At some point, it would be interesting to go to New York and compare the old pictures with the buildings that are there today. But that will need to wait for another day. For now, looking at the buildings through the lens of a 1940’s photographer will have to be enough.
Want to learn about history you can visit? Check out “5 Historic Lighthouses in New Jersey you can Actually Visit!”
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