Museum of the City of New York, Urban Archive | Urban Archive

Ben Smyth

Cofounder, Urban Archive

Urban Archive

123 Bowery, Floor 4 New York, NY 10002 United States

MUSE Digital Campaign Award 2020



Bringing History to NYC Streets



Archival photographs are innately charged with meaning but sometimes disconnected from the people and places they represent when accessed in digital format. Our goal at Urban Archive is to help bridge this gap in the archival world and practice through collaboration and location technology. While there are endless ways to go about this work, our approach is centered on contextualizing historical records in situ at places of cultural significance.


If you’ve been following Urban Archive for any length of time, you probably know that this is our bread and butter. But also that none of our work could be possible without quality archival photographs and a museum or library that’s willing to experiment with them. This is where the Museum of the City of New York (MCNY) comes in, one of our founding partners who’s contributed more than 30,000 images to our digital map ofNYC history. Over the years, our organizations have collaborated on various projects that have gotten the Museum’s archives “out in the open” and given us new perspectives on the places where we live and work.

Our HistoricNYC campaign got its start by building on these ideas together with LinkNYC, which are digital kiosks sprinkled across the city’s five boroughs. What we have developed together is a way to geolocate and pull MCNY’s archives from Urban Archive and surface them onto LinkNYC’s digital kiosks. This enables comsone passing through the Lower East Side, for example, to walk by a Link terminal on Orchard Street and see photographs of 19th-century immigrant street vendors setting up shop just a few feet away.




Our partnership with LinkNYC and MCNY is a perfect example of what can be done when technology, open city data, and history are combined. The LinkNYC integration showcases MCNY’s digital collections in relevant locations while encouraging the exploration of city history.




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