"...some of the most innovative digital library work anywhere." - Dan Cohen, Director, Roy Rosenzweig Center for History & New Media
"...showing just how much of a force for awesome experimentation a library can be today." - Dan Sinker, Knight-Mozilla OpenNews project, founder of Punk Planet
"...working industriously to bring things that others think impossible to reality." - Dongfang Shao, Library of Congress
"It's all part of drawing the public into the library's work." - Jennifer Howard, Chronicle of Higher Education
...is an experimental design and technology unit creating interactive experiences around research library collections and data. Based at NYPL's flagship branch on 42nd Street, Labs operates as an in-house startup, working closely with curators to develop projects that push the envelope of library practice, engage new audiences through user collaboration and crowdsourcing, and accelerate the flow of cultural heritage content, data and code into the digital commons.
In addition to innovation, Labs works on improving core digital research services at the Library, and is currently designing new access to NYPL's extensive archival and audiovisual collections. Keep an eye out for frequent free talks and workshops, and get in touch!
Follow: @nypl_labs »
Write: firstname.lastname@example.org »
- NYPL Labs: Hacking the Library (doc) by Labs Manager Ben Vershbow - electronic peer-reviewed version of an article published in Journal of Library Administration 53(1) (January, 2013): 10–26 - Special Issue: Digitial Humanities in Libraries – New Models For Scholarly Engagement. The article is also available at Taylor & Francis Online. Alt/Open Access table of contents of full issue available here.
- Cover story in Library Journal (September, 2012)
The Thomas Addis Emmet Collection of early American manuscripts, one of NYPL's most important archival collections, is now available online in its entirety thanks to a generous gift from The Polonsky Foundation. The collection contains nearly 10,000 handwritten letters and documents from America's founding, including a copy of the Declaration of Independence in Thomas Jefferson's hand. For more than 100 years, researchers have visited the Library to mine this collection for insight into our country's birth and early years. Now, this unparalleled resource is freely available to scholars, educators, students and interested citizens anytime from anywhere.
Working with the incredible team from NYPL's Manuscripts and Archives Division, NYPL Labs built the Emmet Collection as a prototype of future archival access at The New York Public Library and is the Library's first completely digitized online archival collection.
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The Library has been collecting restaurant menus for over a century, amassing one of the largest culinary archives in the world. Approximately one quarter of the 40,000-item collection (housed in the Rare Book Division) has been digitized, but now we're enlisting the public's help in transcribing the actual contents of the menus: dishes, prices and other information of great value to researchers that, due to handwritten lettering, idiosyncratic typography and layouts, has been difficult to extract mechanically. The resulting database will become a powerful tool for researching the tastes, appetites and social fabric of the past. Thousands have participated in what is already one of the most successful documented library crowdsourcing projects, continuing a proud volunteer tradition at NYPL. Funded generously by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute for Library and Museum Services.
Winner of 2011 Roy Rosenzweig Prize for Innovation in Digital History from the American Historical Association!
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After 72 years, the National Archives has released the full set of records comprising the 1940 Federal Census - a milestone event for historians and genealogists studying documentary material of New Deal and Depression-era America. But finding a name among the millions of handwritten records is like looking for a needle in a haystack. In response, Labs worked with the Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy to build Direct Me NYC: 1940, a site that invites users to construct targeted searches of the census data via addresses found in 1940 New York City telephone directories. Patrons are also invited to share stories about the people and addresses they've searched, building a cultural memory bank directly out of the pages of the phone book.
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Inspired by a library patron's art project, the Stereogranimator is Labs' latest user collaboration app, inviting the public to transform over 40,000 historical stereographs into web-friendly 3D formats shareable to all. For the better part of a century, stereoscopic views were the cutting edge of immersive 3D entertainment, and for over a decade the Library has been sharing its vast collection on the web as flat, two-dimensional artifacts. Now, 19th century photography collides with early internet folk art as users remix vintage stereos into animated GIFs, bringing the past tantalizingly in reach with an eerie wiggle effect. 3D afficionados can also create red-blue anaglyphs, which, with the right glasses, recreate the incredible depth effect of these images. After an overwhelming response to the initial launch, the Labs team is already hard at work on improving the site.
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The NYPL Map Division is working to build an unparalleled resource for researching New York City history. The Map Warper is a tool suite, used by library staff but also open to the public, to align (or "rectify") historical maps to the digital maps of today. Tile by tile, we're stitching old atlas sheets into historical layers, that researchers can explore with pan-and-zoom functionality, comparing yesterday's cityscape with today's. Along with other tools, such as one for tracing building footprints and transcribing address and material information found on the maps, we are laying the groundwork for dynamic geospatial discovery of other library collections: manuscripts and archives, historical newspapers, photography, A/V, ephemera (e.g. menus) etc. Join our citizen cartography corps and help build this virtual atlas of New York City (and other parts of the world). Built with generous support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Recently honored as a 'Cutting-Edge Service' by the American Library Association!
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Based at Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH), Music Theater Online is a digital archive of texts, images, video, and audio files relating to musical theater. The best printed editions of musical theater texts cannot fully provide the experience of simultaneous expression of verbal, musical, and terpsichorean languages so necessary to understand the art form. Using the multimedia capabilities of the modern web browser and mobile devices, we hope to create a better framework for studying these important works of drama. With generous support from the National Endowment for the Arts, MTO's work expands this year at NYPL with the serial release of free, multi-format electronic editions of twelve historical musicals.
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In its initial planning stages, The Shelley-Godwin Archive will present key works of British Romanticism by Mary Wollstonecraft, William Godwin, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. The Archive will draw primarily from the two foremost collections of these materials, those of the Bodleian Library, Oxford, and the Carl H. Pforzheimer Collection of Shelley and His Circle at NYPL, which together hold an estimated 90 percent of all known relevant manuscripts worldwide. With the Archive’s creation, manuscripts and early editions of these writers will be made freely available to the public through an innovative framework based upon the Shakespeare Quartos Archive. First among these is the manuscript of Mary Shelley's iconic novel of 1818, Frankenstein; and second will be the working notebooks of P.B. Shelley, which are scattered amongst five partner institutions from California to England. The Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH) will create the project’s infrastructure, with the assistance of NYPL Labs. The Shelley-Godwin Archive is made possible by generous support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
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A companion website to the exhibition Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and Fallout, which tells the story of Lauren Redniss, an artist, writer and former Cullman Center fellow, who drew on the vast collections of The New York Public Library to create a new work of art. NYPL Labs collaborated with a talented group of students at Parsons the New School for Design who, with Redniss as their guide, created an innovative website showcasing a dazzling array of new works inspired by the visual and narrative universe of Radioactive.
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In partnership with the Lighting Archive and legendary designer Beverly Emmons, the Theatrical Lighting Database is a proof-of-concept version of what is aimed at being an extensive digital archive of original lighting documents. Modern theatrical lighting is a uniquely American art form, which until now has been exceedingly difficult to study due to limited access to original lighting documents. This collection contains actual plots, focus charts, cue sheets and much more from four landmark productions digitized from the collections of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. For the first time, these masterworks can now be studied in theaters, classrooms, libraries and homes far from the archives that hold them.
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Launched in conjunction with the Library’s 2009/10 exhibition, Candide at 250: Scandal and Success, Candide 2.0 was an experiment in public reading and communal annotation. In the spirit of Candide’s famous closing line “let us cultivate our garden,” we commissioned readers, or “gardeners,” from a wide variety of backgrounds (professors, novelists, playwrights, translators) to plant seeds of commentary in assigned chapters, preparing the ground for a fertile public conversation. The experiment ran for two months and amassed over 200 comments, suggesting what might be possible were the library to host more robust social editions, for scholarly, classroom or creative communities.
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Ben Vershbow (Manager, NYPL Labs) - @subsublibrary
David Riordan (Product Manager) - @riordan
Mauricio Giraldo Arteaga (Interaction Designer/Developer) - @mgiraldo
Paul Beaudoin (Applications Developer) - @nonword
Brian Foo (Applications Developer) - @beefoo
Trevor Thornton (Senior Applications Developer, Archives) - @trevorthornton
Liz Denlinger (Carl H. Pforzheimer Collection of Shelley and His Circle)
Sylviane Diouf (Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture)
Rebecca Federman (Electronic Resources/Culinary Collections)
Michael Inman (Rare Book Division)
Matt Knutzen (Map Division)
Maira Liriano (Milstein Division of U.S. History, Local History & Genealogy)
Stephen Pinson (Print and Photography Collection)
Doug Reside (Library for the Performing Arts)
William Stingone (Manuscripts and Archives)
Ann Thornton (Andrew W. Mellon Director of The New York Public Library)
Victoria Steele (Brooke Russell Astor Director of Collections Strategy)
Micah May (Director of Strategy, Office of Strategic Planning))
Jane Aboyoun (Chief Technology Officer, NYPL Information Technology Group)
Matt Morgan (Director of the Website, NYPL Office of Strategic Planning)
James Murdock (Director of Multimedia Content, NYPL Department of Communications)
Labs doodle by Michael Lascarides