The NYC Municipal Archives Online Gallery provides free and open research access to over 800,000 items digitized from the Municipal Archives’ vast holdings, including photographs, maps, motion-pictures and audio recordings.

The New York City Municipal Archives Online Gallery is comprised of selections from the Archives’ historical collections of rare photographs, maps, folk art, and audio and video recordings, some of which have never been accessible to the public before. The Gallery includes over 870,000 images which are freely available to artists, researchers, and history buffs– once you find an image you want to learn more about, you can click on it to reveal the item record which outlines the subject, artist, date and provenance of the item.

Almost all the records, including images, can be printed directly from the site (look for the “Printer Friendly” link at the top of the page), or you can purchase reproductions by clicking the shopping cart icon (Print options include high-res digital files or archival digital prints; an 8×10 print of the Queensboro Bridge photo pictured below runs $45).  The images included in these collections may also be licensed from the Archives for commercial use.

The Online Gallery is easy to navigate and search as well.  You can browse sub-collections such as the WPA Federal Writers Project, WNYC Collection of Radio, Film and TV, and the MAP Maps and Atlases Collection, from the Collection Selection list in the left-hand sidebar.  If you’re more interested in searching for specific subjects or places across all the collections, you can also use the search functions:  a general search box in the upper right corner of the home page gives you the option of searching catalog data or a combination of catalog data and document text, and the Advanced Search function allows you to search multiple criteria, including image size, dates, keywords, and subjects.

The best part?  the NYC Municipal Archives is continuously digitizing and adding new images to the online Gallery, and the site encourages visitors to return again and again to find new gems.

This collection is a wonderful way to explore the architecture, art, culture, and people of New York, and is a terrific resource for artists and librarians.  Writers and visual artists of all kinds will find interesting and inspiring images here, even in the most unlikely collections– even the Tax Photos offer a glimpse into the past and sometimes document places that no longer exist. A simple keyword search for any idea or subject (try ‘zoo’) will yield photographs, audio and video, and other documents that can be used for drawing exercises, writing prompts that draw on events or places from the past, or historical research for scripts and character development.

If you use the NYC Municipal Archives in your library or in your artistic work, we’d love to hear about your experiences!  Share your favorite image or clip in the comments and tell us how you found it!

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