If you leave New York City for any length of time, you will return to find it familiar and yet endlessly adapted–ruthlessly updated. In the city that never sleeps, that is both timeless and modern, that changes constantly and yet stands eternal, history takes on a special dimension that doesn’t take up any extra square footage.
In an admirable effort, residents and organizations have documented the rich history behind the myth and legend of New York City. Here are eight experts you should follow to keep up with the evolution.
Imagine your apartment building–perfectly preserved and inoculated by time–has reopened by historians. 70 years later, it can now toured by curious visitors. In viewing your perfectly preserved or restored apartment, they try to understand what life was like at this point in history: what has changed and what has stayed the same in this ephemeral city.
Touring other people’s apartments fulfills deep-seated voyeuristic tendencies inherent to New Yorkers, to whom space is a precious commodity. Touring a fellow New Yorker’s apartment removed by the span of several dozen years and a handful of generations is now a unique educational treat, courtesy of the Tenement Museum.
On a mission to document the immigrant experience and New York City’s tenement communities, historian and social activist Ruth Abram and Tenement Museum co-founder Anita Jacobson stumbled across a time capsule at 97 Orchard Street. Just one building on a block of many housed nearly 7000 working class immigrants during its lifespan. Operating from 1863 to 1935, tenants were subsequently evicted and the higher floors shuttered, due to a building code upgrade that never happened.
Discovered in this condition in 1988 and re-opened in 1992, the Tenement Museum in the Lower East Side is a fascinating and ever-expanding look into the history of the city, through the eyes of the people who fundamentally shaped it. It documents the struggle and magnifies the story of a movement in microcosm. Perhaps most fascinating for its focus on history through people and stories, the Tenement Museum is very much a living history.
The popular Bowery Boys have recorded over 200 podcasts celebrating over 400 years of New York city history.
This feed is a window into the vast knowledge of Levys’ Unique New York: “NY’s First Family of Tour Guides,” who can tailor your New York experience like no other.
This historian-curated feed is chock full of old photos and depictions of New York City, almost impossible to reconcile with the vividly technicolor, larger-than-life smorgasbord we see and hear today.
The Gotham Center, through the Graduate Center at CUNY, works to make New York City history available to the public for study and enrichment, pooling the resources of “professional historians, amateur buffs, museum curators, archivists, librarians, educators, filmmakers, and preservationists.” The Gotham Center was prompted by an award-winning book: Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898. Based on its success, author Mike Wallace established Gotham Center in 2000.
Founded in 1804, the New-York Historical Society showcases a historical collection and culturally-relevant exhibitions about this city’s rich history.
Founded in 1923 and formerly located in the official residence of the New York City Mayor–Gracie Mansion–the Museum of the City of New York features an eclectic and exceptional cross-section of New York City history.
New York Public Library’s Labs are focused on harnessing and optimizing the extensive resources at the library’s disposal for the internet’s edification. This effort has led to projects such as the New York City Space/Time Directory, Stereogranimator, and Building Inspector. Also check out the OldNYC app, which places old NYPL photos of New York on the map, literally.