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NYPL Labs is an experimental technology unit that works closely with curators to create tools that expand the range of interaction, interpretation and reuse of research library collections and data. Learn 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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Historical Maps in Minecraft

At a recent internal hacking event here, NYPL Labs developer Paul Beaudoin recruited me into an interesting project: transforming one of the library's 20,000 digitized historical maps into the three-dimensional world of the building game Minecraft.

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NYPL Labs Building Inspector: No Sleep Til Brooklyn, API, and Open Source Edition

A few weeks ago, we launched Building Inspector, NYPL Labs' latest tool for opening up historical maps of New York City. In that time, you (and lots of other Inspectors) have helped unlock an era of Manhattan's past, generating a building-level snapshot of the city 150 years ago that modern mapping tools can make use of.

Hooray! You did it! We did it (we're really hooked too). To celebrate the completion of the 1857 Manhattan Atlas, we've got some exciting news:

    We're 
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MAPHACK: Hacking NYC's Past with NYPL Labs & Friends

John Stokell used to make clocks by hand, and a few years back he got his big break. Two inventors came to him with a new networking technology and he wanted John to help make it possible. So John signed on, built the "Registers" at either end of the line, and when the inventors' new technology took the world by storm, John's artisanal clock business took off. The money was good, very good apparently. By data mining publicly available metadata, it's possible to see that Stokell was able to move from his home at 130 Leonard in SoHo (which doubled as his studio) over 

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Binding Your Own E-books: Part 1 (The Internet Archive BookReader)

The Wizard of Oz in the BookReaderIn 2005, the Internet Archive released the first version of their BookReader, a web widget that allows a user to flip through images of book pages with an animation that suggests the turning of physical paper. The current version also allows you to view the images as set of thumbnails or as a vertically scrolling set of page images (like a PDF). The code is open source and written in JavaScript (a computer language that runs entirely in the web browser), so it's very easy to install the widget on 

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We Are Asking For Your Help With Technology Challenges at NYPL

Over a century ago, The New York Public Library was founded with a basic purpose: to provide free access to information, literature, and cultural resources for the enjoyment and enrichment of all New Yorkers.

In the late 19th century, this meant accumulating vast collections spanning all subjects and languages, erecting beautiful buildings to store these books, and hiring brilliant, dedicated librarians to serve them to the public. But what would it look like if we founded The New York Public Library today?

Look around you and you’ll notice that 

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Digital Archaeology: Recovering your Digital History

If you've been using computers for a while, you've probably purchased quite a few devices for storing your work. My family's first computer (a Timex Sinclair 1000 purchased for about $40 in 1984 from our neighborhood grocery store) saved files to an ordinary audio cassette by transferring data over the same sort of cord you might use to connect your iPod to your car stereo. Since then I've used floppy disks, zip disks, CD-ROMS, DVD-ROMs, and memory sticks, and with each change I migrated most of my important files to 

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The New York City Historical GIS Project

In 2010, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) awarded The New York Public Library's Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division a three-year grant for its New York City Historical Geographic Information Systems project, which builds digital cartographic resources from NYPL's historical paper map and atlas 

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Happy Birthday to... Us! A Year of Menus

It's hard to believe, but a year ago this week the New York Public Library launched What's on the Menu?!

Two days in from our very first Tweet, we had 1,000 dishes transcribed. As of this writing, we have 866,636 dishes dishes transcribed and we're not done yet.

We still have many more menus to digitize and we're working hard on new ways to make the site even easier to navigate and use.

But before the next year begins, Michael Inman, Ben Vershbow, and I wanted to take 

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All Hands on Deck: NYPL Turns to the Crowd to Develop Digital Collections

Users are generating that reality every day at The New York Public Library through two landmark crowdsourcing endeavors, What’s on the Menu? and Map Rectifier. The former enlists the public in the transcription of historical menus, and the latter allows users to “rectify” historical maps by overlaying them on modern ones. Both projects stand out amid a glut of competitors as refreshingly guilt-free and subliminally educational uses of online time. 

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Announcing: Musical of the Month

Growing up in St. Louis, Missouri, my favorite part of the week was visiting the Florissant Valley Public Library and checking out cast recordings. I remember flipping through the bins of LPs, staring down at the big black album with glowing cat eyes, and wondering what in the world that show might be about. It was always a little disappointing when the liner notes were missing or the plot summaries were 

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The Queen B: Miss Buttolph and Her Menus

If you've transcribed even one menu, you've likely seen her stamp. A blue oval bearing her name, "Buttolph Collection", as graceful as a branding iron over asparagus, Russian caviar, or Boston baked beans.

Miss Frank E. Buttolph stamped nearly every menu she collected for the New York Public Library, twenty-three years worth, amounting to roughly 25,000 menus under her tenure 

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New Feature! Unlock Menus to Continue Editing

We've gotten a number of questions over the past week of What's on the Menu? about menus marked as "done." Do we really mean done? As in finished, vetted, archived for posterity? Fear not, we've cleared up this confusion with some new language. What we really meant to say was "under review."

On several occasions, a volunteer e-mailed us saying they'd spotted errors, or missing dishes, on menus marked as complete. I happily re-opened the menus in question (a facility only open to site administrators) and 

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Doin' the Dishes!

Saratoga ChipsCorned Beef Hash.  Large Pot of Oolong Tea

Okay, so they’re not included in the works of Shakespeare (as far as I know), but that doesn’t mean these dishes aren't of value to researchers and scholars and the generally curious who read menus in order to learn more about the food served and consumed in restaurants throughout history.

But until now this kind of information (the food!) was 

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Candide 2.0: A Reading Experiment Begins

For the next ten weeks, the New York Public Library will host a public, interactive reading of Candide, in connection to its ongoing exhibition at 42nd St.. This edition will look familiar to readers who remember the story, or even just its famous lines about “the best of all possible worlds” and “we must cultivate our garden.” But the innovative format, which facilitates reader annotations and discussions in the digital margins, will also 

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Drawing on the Past: Enlivening the Study of Historical Geography at maps.nypl.org

On behalf of The Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, the NYPL’s Director of Digital Strategy and Scholarship and our partners EntropyFree LLC, I am proud to announce the launch of maps.nypl.org

This new website is a parallel snapshot of all maps currently available on the Digital Gallery as well as a powerful set of tools designed to significantly enhance the way we access and use maps and the cartographic 

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World Series warm-up: historic New York-Philadelphia baseball images on Flickr

The 2009 World Series brings together two cities uncommonly rich in baseball history. Though you might guess which team NYPL is rooting for this year, we've posted a selection of images on The Commons on Flickr representing a variety of New York and Philadelphia ball clubs of yore.

Some of the game's earliest years are chronicled in over 500 photographs

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Mapping New York's Shoreline: The Storied River

Staff of the New York Public Library recently hand picked a set of nearly 500 images, collected from across our Digital Gallery, composing them as a curated set of images at the Commons on Flickr. They represent the Hudson River Valley through several hundred years of history and complement

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General Motors and Chrysler images on Flickr Commons

As we watch with astonishment the "restructuring" of two American automotive titans, take a look back at the first four decades of their history, a time which saw multiple breaking waves of innovation in both engineering and design, and a steady absorption of manufacturing brands into the conglomerates we now see in crisis today.

Over the years, General Motors Corporation donated photographs and related materials as a public service to 

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Milstein joins the Flickr Commons!

Just last week, the New York Public Library updated their Flickr Commons photostream. The newest images are from the Milstein Division and include construction photographs of the Woolworth Building as well as block by block street views of both Fifth Avenue (1911) and

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