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NYPL Labs

"...some of the most innovative digital library work anywhere." - Dan Cohen, Executive Director, Digital Public Library of America

"...showing just how much of a force for awesome experimentation a library can be today." - Dan Sinker, Knight-Mozilla OpenNews project, founder of Punk Planet

"It's all part of drawing the public into the library's work." - Jennifer Howard, Chronicle of Higher Education

NYPL LABS

Based dually at the Library's landmark central branch on 42nd Street and at its cutting-edge services center in Long Island City, NYPL Labs is an interdisciplinary team working to reformat and reposition the Library's knowledge for the Internet age. Labs combines core digital library operations (digitization, metadata, permissions/reproductions, etc.) with a publicly engaged tech, design, and outreach team focused on enabling new uses of collections and data, collaborating with users on the creation of digital resources, and applying new technologies to library problem-solving.

Twitter: @nypl_labs »
Email: labs@nypl.org »
Tumblr: nypl-imaging.tumblr.com/ »
Blog »

RECENT INVESTIGATIONS

Generative eBook Covers Net Artist Residency The Networked Catalog
Generative eBook Covers NYPL Labs Net Artist Residency The Networked Catalog
Google Street View Layers Old Maps in Minecraft
Google Street View History Brush Historical Maps in Minecraft

PROJECTS

Building Inspector

Building Inspector

Our latest collaboration with the Map Division, Building Inspector is a mobile-friendly web app for improving information extracted from 19th century New York City insurance atlases. Out of a recent hack event, we developed a computer vision process that can identify building shapes and other data from georectified atlas sheets (kind of like OCR for maps). The output is good, but not perfect, so Building Inspector crowdsources the quality control, inviting users to check the computer's work and identify other valuable information, building by building. Kill time, make history. It's easy (and addictive).

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NYPL Archives & Manuscripts

NYPL Archives & Manuscripts

The most comprehensive discovery system for archives and manuscripts ever produced by the Library, with over 9,000 collections. This evolving platform introduces several innovative approaches to the presentation of finding aids on the web including an intuitive single-page interface, component-level search, and access to over 120,000 digitized pages. Produced in close collaboration with the NYPL Manuscripts and Archives Division and with the generous support of The Polonsky Foundation and The Hermione Foundation. 

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NYPL Digital Collections

Digital Collections

Labs is working with NYPL's Digital Repository team on a new interface to the Library's vast repository of digitized material: prints, photographs, manuscripts, maps, video recordings, posters, rare illustrated books, and more. Currently in beta, the new service is powered by NYPL's recently opened Digital Collections API and soon will become the Library's central access point for digitized and born-digital materials of all formats.

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Community Oral History Project

NYPL Community Oral History Project

Labs is working with the Library’s Outreach and Adult Education Programs, and the Milstein  local history division, on a community-based oral history project that is currently piloting in Greenwich Village and Harlem. This site presents audio from the interviews recorded so far, including a very early prototype of a crowd-powered audio logging tool.

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What's on the Menu?

What's on the Menu?

The Library has been collecting restaurant menus for over a century, amassing one of the largest culinary archives in the world. To open up the collection online, we've enlisted the public's help in transcribing the actual contents of the menus: dishes, prices and other information of great value to researchers that, due to handwritten lettering, idiosyncratic typography and layouts, has been difficult to extract mechanically. The resulting database provides a powerful tool for researching the tastes, appetites and social fabric of the past. Thousands have participated in what is already one of the most successful documented library crowdsourcing projects, and the growing data set is now available via NYPL's first public API. A collaboration with NYPL's Rare Book Division, funded generously by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute for Library and Museum Services

Winner of 2011 Roy Rosenzweig Prize for Innovation in Digital History from the American Historical Association.

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Follow @nypl_menus »

 

Stereogranimator 

Stereogranimator

Inspired by a library user's art project, the Stereogranimator is a browser-based tool for transforming over 40,000 historical stereographs into shareable, screen-friendly 3D formats. 19th century photography collides with early internet folk art as users remix vintage stereos into animated GIFs, bringing the past tantalizingly in reach with an eerie wiggle effect. 3D afficionados can also create red-blue anaglyphs, which, with the right glasses, recreate the incredible depth effect of these images. The site also features several thousand stereographs from the Boston Public Library.

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Ensemble 

 Ensemble

Labs is working with the Billy Rose Theatre Division on a community transcription project around its massive collection of New York City theatrical playbills. The aim is to produce a linked data set of historical performances (and their casts of creators and characters) that can be connected to theater history projects around the globe. Labs launched a prototype of the tool last year and aims to release a more robust version later this year.

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Direct Me NYC: 1940 

 1940

Built with NYPL’s Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy, Direct Me NYC: 1940 is a rapid-response reference tool built in anticipation of the 2012 release of the 1940 Federal Census records. Weaving a complex research process into a single web-based workflow, we digitized five New York City phone directories from microfilm and used them as the starting point for navigating 3.8 million unindexed (at the time) pages of census material at the National Archives website. Patrons were also invited to share stories about the people and addresses they searched, building a cultural memory bank directly out of the pages of the phone book. The site also features a collaboration with the New York Times R&D Lab: a 1940 headline ticker that leads to digitized newspaper files providing context around the year the Census was taken.

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Follow @NYPLMilstein »

 

Map Warper

Map Warper

Built with the NYPL Map Division, the Map Warper is a tool suite, used by library staff but also open to the public, to align (or "rectify") historical maps to the digital maps of today. Tile by tile, we're stitching old atlas sheets into historical layers, that researchers can explore with pan-and-zoom functionality, comparing yesterday's cityscape with today's. Along with other tools -- such as one for tracing building footprints and transcribing address and material information found on the maps -- we are laying the groundwork for dynamic geospatial discovery of other library collections: manuscripts and archives, historical newspapers, photography, A/V, ephemera (e.g. menus) etc. Join our citizen cartography corps and help build this virtual atlas of New York City (and other parts of the world). Built with generous support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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Follow @NYPLMaps »

 

Radioactive

A companion website to the exhibition Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and Fallout, which tells the story of Lauren Redniss, an artist, writer and former Cullman Center fellow, who drew on the vast collections of The New York Public Library to create a new work of art. NYPL Labs collaborated with a talented group of students at Parsons the New School for Design who, with Redniss as their guide, created an imaginative website showcasing new works inspired by the visual and narrative universe of Radioactive.

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Theatrical Lighting Database

In partnership with the Lighting Archive and legendary designer Beverly Emmons, the Theatrical Lighting Database is a proof-of-concept version of what is aimed at being an extensive digital archive of original lighting documents. Modern theatrical lighting is a uniquely American art form, which until now has been exceedingly difficult to study due to limited access to original lighting documents. This collection contains actual plots, focus charts, cue sheets and much more from four landmark productions digitized from the collections of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. For the first time, these masterworks can now be studied in theaters, classrooms, libraries and homes far from the archives that hold them.

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Candide 2.0

Launched in conjunction with the Library’s 2009/10 exhibition, Candide at 250: Scandal and Success, Candide 2.0 was an experiment in public reading and communal annotation. In the spirit of Candide’s famous closing line “let us cultivate our garden,” we commissioned readers, or “gardeners,” from a wide variety of backgrounds (professors, novelists, playwrights, translators) to plant seeds of commentary in assigned chapters, preparing the ground for a fertile public conversation. The experiment ran for two months and amassed over 200 comments, suggesting what might be possible were the library to host more robust social editions, for scholarly, classroom or creative communities.

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THE TEAM 

Ben Vershbow (Director, Digital Library + Labs) - @subsublibrary
Josh Hadro (Deputy Director, Digital Library + Labs) - @hadro
David Riordan (Product Manager) - @riordan

Brian Foo (Designer/Developer) - @beefoo
John Nowak (Applications Developer)
Leonard Richardson (Applications Developer) - @leonardr
Matt Miller (Applications Developer) - @thisismmiller
Mauricio Giraldo (Interaction Designer/Developer) - @mgiraldo
Paul Beaudoin (Applications Developer) - @nonword

Labs doodle by Michael Lascarides