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Citizen Cartography @NYPL: Tracing Old New York


October 22, 2013

Help NYPL build the geospatial library of the future! This workshop will get you oriented with the a set of tools the

 Library has developed (available at that enables librarians and the general public to digitize or "trace" important historical features from old maps. This means capturing boundaries, roads, and even building-level details including historical street addresses to create new public data sets of geographic information.

The above image shows traced buildings on a warped map sheet from an 1854 William Perris Real Estate Atlas depicting the Wall Street section of lower Manhattan. By capturing this information, we can build a complete 1854 historical data set of Manhattan, observing changes in the land use and conjuring the ghostly footprints of old buildings. This is just step 1 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integration effort, in which we can pull together archival records, newspapers, photography and other literary and historical documents that are associated with places on the map.
There are literally thousands of maps to process — far too big a job for NYPL to do on its own. So we're enlisting you, our Citizen Cartographer corps, to help lay the foundations of a powerful new research tool that will benefit scholars, educators and history enthusiasts around New York and the world.

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  • Audience: Adults