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NYPL Labs is an experimental design and technology team working expand the range of interaction, interpretation, and reuse of library collections and data. Learn more

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

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

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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NYPL joins Flickr Commons

Chances are, if you spend any time online you've come across Flickr. Flickr is a wonderful site for storing, sharing and building community around photographs. It's similar to online photo services like Kodak Gallery or Shutterfly except with a greater social focus and tools and features reminiscent of Facebook. About a year ago Flickr launched the Flickr Commons, a project dedicated to sharing and describing the public photo collections of the world's leading cultural heritage 

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Library of Congress + Flickr = tagging for everyone

The Astor Library was opened to the public almost 150 years ago. One reason it was not viewed as a success is expressed in the illustration left.

Most of us, I think, would agree that democratization of information is a good thing. Making books, art, music freely available to more people can only bring about societal enrichment. The New York Public Library has a history of doing just that.

Working with the idea of social collective knowledge, libraries seem to be pushing the boundaries further. Even the Library of Congress is considering the benefits of 

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