Web

Virtually explore the old streets of New York City

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If you want to see New York as it once was, you don’t have to get yourself a time machine to do it. Software engineer Dan Vanderkam has assembled a way to visit the Big Apple’s past without the need to fire up a Delorean.

OldNYC — and the similarly constructed OldSF for west coasters — takes a map of the big city as it currently stands and plots out photos of the city dating back decades. OldNYC contains over 40,000 photos(OldSF is made up of 14,000) obtained from the New York Public library, all plotted and geolocated on the map for easy browsing and viewing.

The interactive map makes moving through the city easy, and not much different from navigating a standard Google Maps page. Except that at the stops along the way, plotted out at most street intersections, you’ll find old photos snapped years ago in approximately the same spot.

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If you notice a picture that is out of place — perhaps because you are in fact a time traveler, or maybe just really old but with a sharp memory — you can submit feedback and corrections on the images to ensure historical accuracy. Or if you know a little bit about what is depicted in the photo, you can leave a comment to tell the story and help fill out the history of the city. There are sure to be stories that accompany the photos that can provide context and help preserve the memories.

The OldNYC and OldSF projects have been an undertaking of Vanderkam’s since 2013. The labor of love between the engineer and library staff has been a purely voluntary effort, he told CityLab. Most of the information has been gathered by optical character recognition software, which scans the photos and the typewritten notes that accompany them.

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