NYPL: Making Collections Possible Through Collaboration

It’s Social Media Week here in NYC and I’ve been lucky enough to attend several sessions that are a part of this cutting-edge conference. On Monday the New York Public Library hosted a session titled Making Collections Possible Through Collaboration during which they discussed 3 exciting digital projects undertaken by NYPL Labs, each involving collaboration with users.


GIF made with the NYPL Labs Stereogranimator - view more at http://stereo.nypl.org/gallery/index
GIF made with the NYPL Labs Stereogranimator

The NYPL’s Stereogranimator lets users create and share animated GIFs and 3D anaglyphs using more than 40,000 stereographs. Users can browse through the NYPL’s collection of dual photos and then combine them to make a 3D image. This project was inspired by Joshua Heineman’s project that he started four years ago. The San Francisco-based artist was using the NYPL’s collection of stereographs to create animated gif images for his Cursive Buildings site. His project went viral and the Library took notice and began collaborating with him to create the Stereogranimator.


The NYPL’s menu collection includes over 40,000 menus dating from the 1840s to the present. In order to be able to search the menus by dish, price, etc., they are transcribing the menus, dish by dish with the help of their users. The What’s on the Menu project has had over 782,059 dishes transcribed from 12,426 menus. Users can share menus via Facebook, Twitter, and other popular social media website. All of the data is openly available in zipped format for export, and the NYPL plans an API for release shortly. They are considering incorporating their historic playbill collection, and plan on mashing this application up with their Map Warper.


The NYPL’s Map Warper is an application for digitally aligning (“rectifying”) historical maps from their collections with today’s maps to create a brand new version. This allows for comparative, spatial history. Users can view the maps which have been rectified or warped already, or they can help the NYPL align other maps. The NYPL map collection consists of over 433,000 maps and 24,000 books and atlases. They have been digitizing this collection over the past 12 years and have digitized 15,000 maps, 10,000 of which are NYC maps. They will be making the software package openly available for other libraries to use. To date, they have 1600 collaborators who are helping rectify maps on NYPL’s site.