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Citizen Cartography @NYPL: Discovering Local Histories





Discover the microhistories of the neighborhoods and streets where you live, work and play! This workshop will get you oriented with the set of a powerful new research tools the Library has developed (available at that enables librarians and the general public to add valuable geographic context to and capture important historical features from old maps. You will use the tools to explore the past lives of familiar areas and begin to build local histories.

The above image shows a warped map sheet from an 1857 William Perris Real Estate Atlas depicting a section of Manhattan to the southwest of Union Square (see it in the context of the Warper). By stitching this to its sibling sheets from the atlas, we can build a complete 1857 historical layer of Manhattan, observing changes in the street layout and conjuring the ghostly footprints of old buildings. This is the first step in a larger integration effort, in which we can pull together archival records, newspapers, photography and other literary and historical documents that are associated with places on the map.
Whether you are searching for a childhood home or a college town, there are literally thousands of maps to process. Once you learn to use the tools, you can do it anytime from school, work, the comfort of your home, and even teach others how to participate. If you can't make this workshop, keep an eye out for upcoming offerings, or simply watch the tutorial at and get started on your own!

More Info

  • Skill prerequisites: Basic computer skills, basic internet skills
  • Audience: Adults