Monday, September 18, 2017


This one's fun. Brandon Liu and Jeremy Lechtzin have created a map-based view of 1980's New York, using Department of Finance tax photographs.  If, like me, you've spent lots of time exploring these photographs at the Municipal Archives website - a somewhat cumbersome process - you'll enjoy this new, quicker means of exploring streets block-by-block.  Some buildings are missing from the archives, so you may not find everything you're looking for, but you get a general sense of a particular block by the images represented next to each other in sequence.

The 80's tax photographs are notorious for their low-resolution. They offer the viewer a blurry sense of the decade, both muddy & garish in its sullen browns and yellows.  It's often hard to make out the lettering on store signs, and the faces of the people are impossible to read.   This can be frustrating, but I kind of like it too.  The views we get are like our own memories of the past - incomplete, with some of the details just beyond our reach.  We can never get back to the real thing, but the mood lingers sweetly.

Here's a familiar stretch of Fifth.  Scroll right & you'll see more storefronts.  What's still there, what do you remember, and what's a foreign world entirely?

I'll still check back in at the Municipal Archives if I want to look at addresses individually, and (slightly) enlarge particular images.  But 80s.NYC is a real winner, a wonderful way to walk the old city.

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