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A Great Tool for Seeing History Wherever You Are

My colleague, Director of Research and Preservation Sarah Bean Apmann (she tells me that “Exalted Majesty Tour Guide” also works as a title), led the first GVSHP walking tour that I attended – our Bleecker Street walking tour  – and I was so lucky to have been there. I have walked up and down Bleecker Street countless times, but this was different. It wasn’t about rushing from one point to another; it was about taking a little bit of time to look around at a familiar landscape and realize how much history – architectural, cultural, social – that landscape holds. Sarah wrote about some of the juicy walking-tour details here; I loved spotting the Federal Houses, stopping into Porto Rico for some coffee knowledge and chocolate-covered espresso beans, and listening to people reminisce about the first time they saw the gorgeous facade of the Bayard-Condict Building at 65 Bleecker Street. 

Sarah Bean Apmann leading the Bleecker Street Walking Tour, which is mapped on the Urban Archive App

A couple of weeks later, I joined our friends at Urban Archive for our East Village Scavenger Hunt. We used the Urban Archive App for The Hunt, following clues, matching up old photos of buildings and streets with their current landscapes, taking our own photos overlaying the historic images, and seeing the neighborhood in a totally new way. It was amazing to open my phone and be able to track that history and how I was walking inside of it. We loved using the app, and it inspired us to do more together. So now, anyone can experience Sarah’s incredible walking tour even if she’s not there because it lives on Urban Archive! If you missed the program, you can download Urban Archive and take the walking tour yourself, along with many others!

What is Urban Archive and what’s the story with their app?

In their own words: “Urban Archive is a location-based mobile app that empowers New Yorkers to learn about history where it happened. The app brings together the digital collections of New York City’s museums, archives, and libraries in an easy-to-use resource built for discovery.” The app includes maps, lists, walks, hunts (they’re more fun with teams, we promise), a “this day in history” calendar, a randomizer, and dedicated archives from GVSHP, the Museum of the City of New York, the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, the NYPL, and many more. The app holds GVSHP’s maps of Oldest Buildings in the Village,  Sarah’s Bleecker Street walk, and Flatirons of the Village. 

This is how GVSHP’s and Urban Archive’s missions match up so nicely – we want to see what’s visible and invisible, we want to take time to notice what’s around us that ties our city to its roots, and in making those roots tangible we see how important our neighborhoods are. The Urban Archive App now holds many photos from GVSHP’s Historic Image Archives, which allows anyone, anywhere, to pull out their phones and see our neighborhoods as they have been through time. Our new archive collections Meredith Jacobson Marciano: NYC from the 1970s to 9-11 and The Center for Migration Studies are already up on Urban Archive.

The Alamo Cube “then (1980) and now (2017)” posted by Urban Archive, with a Scavenger Hunter getting her points for a current-day photo at our Scavenger Hunt

I’m excited for another scavenger hunt with Urban Archive – also because it means looking forward to a time when the weather will be nice enough again to go traipsing around a neighborhood, learning history, and scrambling for photos and points!

The Urban Archive Team announcing the winners of The Hunt outside of Saint Mark’s Church…
…and the winning team! With their prize, a gold-painted piece of village effluvium!

And in the meantime, when I’m walking Bleecker Street I open Urban Archive for a refresher from Sarah’s great walking tour. And when I’m waiting to meet up with someone on a street corner, I open Urban Archive and see who was on this street corner 10, 20, 50, 100 years ago. Many golden ages have been declared in New York City throughout its history and today I’m taking this opportunity to declare this a golden age of historically-conscious technology!

Thanks for the fun and partnership, Urban Archive!

You can download Urban Archive, follow them on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and make sure you’re in GVSHP’s email loop to find out about our next collaboration!

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