New York City's first-ever online archive of photographs, maps, motion pictures and other media that span more than 160 years of City history was made available in the spring of 2012, contains a treasure trove of Brooklyn material.
The gallery includes a series of 25 historic collections that total more than 30,000 images. According to the NYC government press release, the gallery, drawn from from the New York City Municipal Archives, contains 870,000 unique archived images and media, making it the largest collection of its kind in the world.
Brooklyn TreasuresBrooklyn history buffs and professional researchers will have a heyday excavating photos and documents that shed light on Brooklyn of yesteryear. That includes the decades when Brooklyn was an independent municipal entity, before it joined the City of New York.
And, apparently, some of the problems and challenges facing contemporary Brooklyn residents aren't actually much different from those of the past.
For instance, pollution in the Gowanus Canal was a topic for a report over a century ago.
The question of upgrading Brooklyn's beaches came up in 1937, during the height of Coney's popularity.
A plan for the rejuvenation of Red Hook, before IKEA was even a company, is dated to 1966.
There's information on New York City's various mayors, both the famous and infamous.
Specifically, a quick peruse of the archives yielded the following:
- Brooklyn (City of)Minutes and reports : 1885-1889 and 1892-1896.
- Report of the pollution of Gowanus Canal: September 7, 1889.
- The case for the Narrows Tunnel : report of the Chief Engineer dated May 4, 1925.
- The improvement of Coney Island, Rockaway and South Beaches: November 30, 1937.
- Red Hook : a plan for community regeneration:Fall 1996.
Specific CollectionsThe archives are not, of course, focused only on Brooklyn. Highlights include:
- 1980s: One collection includes color photos of every building in all five boroughs that were taken for tax assessment purposes in the 1980s.
- 1930s: 1,300 black-and-white Depression-era photographs taken by the New York City Unit of the Works Progress Administration Federal Writers' Project, taken to illustrate the guide series.
- Early 20th century: 15,000 large-format photographs taken by Eugene de Salignac. De Salignac, an exceptionally talented photographer employed by the Department of Bridges from 1906 to 1934, was assigned to photograph the City's bridge, road, and building construction projects during that time period.
- Waterfront: A complementary collection features extensive photographic documentation of the City's waterfront, showing periods was it was intensely developed. The gallery's oldest photograph dates from 1858.
By going to www.nyc.gov/records, members of the public may search for individual image or an entire collection group for free. However, high-quality reprints may be purchased.
Researchers can also view materials at the Surrogate's Court Building at 31 Chambers Street in Manhattan.