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Posts from the Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy

Researching New York City Neighborhoods

Redefined by the city’s growth, changing populations, and the plans of real estate developers, New York City neighborhoods are ever-evolving entities. They can be researched through our collections—useful materials include neighborhood and borough-specific histories, NYC guidebooks, city agency reports, local newspapers, clippings, statistical data, and maps.Read More ›

Subway Construction: Then and Now

Recent photos, compared side by side with photographs of the construction of New York’s first subway, which opened in 1904, provide stark contrasts. They are evidence of an industry drastically changed: the methods of construction used, the condition and expressions of the workers, and the scale of the projects differ in striking ways.Read More ›

The Internet Loves Digital Collections: April 2015

What was the most viewed image on NYPL's Digital Collections platform in April 2015?Read More ›

The Arm That Clutched the Torch: The Statue of Liberty’s Campaign for a Pedestal

France proposed to bestow the Statue of Liberty to the United States, while Americans were asked to fundraise for its pedestal. The plan to raise money? Her arm went on tour.Read More ›

Why Is New York City Called the Big Apple?

New York is a city of nicknames. The City That Never Sleeps, Empire City, The City So Nice They Named It Twice… and of course Gotham, which we’ve covered before. Today let’s just look at the Big Apple.Read More ›

Lawmen and Badmen: The Tin Star of the Old West

In the early American West, the lawman might be a U.S. marshal, appointed by the Attorney General, or he might be a local sheriff elected to office by the townfolk. The distinction often makes no difference in old Western movies, but is an optimum detail in the pursuit of genealogy and local history research in the Milstein Division, where reference librarians must wrangle between the local, county, state, and federal levels in order to rope in relevant resources for patron requests.Read More ›

Bill Barvin's Location Photography

William "Bill" Barvin worked for over two decades as a location manager and scout for television and film, taking thousands of photos during the course of his career of New York and New Jersey streets, apartments, storefronts, and rooftops; bars, clubs, restaurants, and theaters; hotels, hospitals, laundromats, and churches.Read More ›

20 Reasons Why You Should Write Your Family History

If you have done any family history research, such as looking for records on Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org or conducting interviews with older family members, you may have pondered writing about your genealogy research. Here are 20 reasons why you should cease pondering and start writing.Read More ›

Jersey Genealogy: A Research Guide Using Local History Collections

Perhaps familiar to New Yorkers as a garden state of smokestacks, or surrogate playing field for the Jets and Giants, or otherworld of childhood memory, New Jersey bucks understanding from without and blinkers perspective from within. If your genealogy research leads you to it, find help with this guide.Read More ›

The Changing Face of Times Square

Which way to Longacre Square? Now known as Times Square, the area at the intersection of Broadway and Seventh Avenue has long offered both the high life and the underbelly of New York City.Read More ›

What’s Your Story? Conducting Interviews for Genealogical Research

Family history research often begins with an interview. Speaking with your family to discover names, dates, locations, and important life events is one of the most important steps in delving into the genealogy world.Read More ›

Evacuation Day: New York's Former November Holiday

A once-annual holiday local to New York City, Evacuation Day was formerly equal in importance to the Fourth of July. Referring to the evacuation of British troops from New York City following the Revolutionary War, the celebration of the troops’ departure was observed yearly throughout the early 20th century. Read More ›

More of Our Favorite, Most Absorbing, Compelling, and Pleasurable [True!] Tales of New York City… on Film

A few months ago, the NYPL Milstein Division of United States History, Local History & Genealogy put our collective local history obsessive minds together to bring you a list of our favorite NYC non-fiction books. Now we reveal our favorite New York documentaries. These documentary films best depict New York, either in moments or over lengths of time, providing a capsule of a New York experience.Read More ›

Conducting Genealogical Research Using Newspapers

Historical newspapers are useful tools for history and genealogy research. They can be searched for ancestors’ death notices/obituaries, personal announcements and celebrations, community involvement, social news and gossip, lodge and club news, employment ads, real estate transactions, legal notices, casualty lists, military news, criminal activity, and much more.Read More ›

Class Act: Researching New York City Schools with Local History Collections

The history of education in New York City is fraught with strikes, moral stewardship, ethnic discrimination, caritas, religious debate, political bias, Fame, and Welcome Back, Kotter. This guide will serve as a springboard for researching primary and secondary school history at NYPL and elsewhere.Read More ›

Where in New York is Sesame Street?

Can I tell you how to get to Sesame Street? Well, I can try. You can get to the Sesame Street Subway Stop by the A, B, 1, or 2 trains, which if you check any MTA map, do not intersect at any current station.Read More ›

A Digitized History of The New York Public Library

The History of the New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations provides a thorough account of 19th century New York City libraries, their consolidation into a unified system, and the construction of NYPL’s central library (now known as the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building).Read More ›

Play Strike! Exploring NYC Playgrounds Through Historical Newspapers

At the turn of the 20th century, children’s lifestyles were not quite what they are today. Child labor laws were not declared constitutional until 1938 and children largely socialized with their adult co-workers in dance halls, gambling dens, and gin mills. It was this children-as-adults culture that sparked the play movement, removing children from the “physical and moral dangers of the street” to playgrounds, under the direction of trained play leaders.Read More ›

How to Find Historical Photos of New York City

Researchers commonly seek photographs of places in New York as they once existed in history. HistoryPin.com and WhatWasThere.Com have done admirable work in placing historic photos in their geographic context, however they represent but a fraction of available photos, and associated descriptive metadata can vary in accuracy and precision.Read More ›

Peeling Off The Painted Layers of NYC Walls: Experiments With The Google Street View Archive

As a web developer who works on a screen and an illustrator that works on paper, I have always admired those who could paint big—often on impossibly large and inconveniently placed walls—only to be erased in a matter of weeks or days. The ephemeral nature of street art is what makes it simultaneously appealing and frustrating as a viewer. However, Google Maps recently rolled out a feature allowing users to go back in 

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