Space/Time Directory

New York Public Library Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations

Date Awarded
Grant Period
01/30/15 to 02/06/17
Focus Area
Media Innovation
Knight Library Initiative, Knight News Challenge

Project Links

Grantee Contact

  • New York, NY

Featured Media

Working with local communities and technologists to turn historical maps and other library collections into an interactive directory for the exploration of New York across time periods

What if we could search a city’s past as easily as we search its present? What if we could explore forgotten neighborhoods, look up long-ago vanished buildings and streets, and discover the history around us? Libraries hold the records of evolving urban landscapes, but historic data that charts these changes is not easily accessible. To increase access and public exploration of this data, the New York Public Library will create a free, historical mapping service: the NYC Space/Time Directory. Using data from the library’s map collections and other sources, the directory will be a searchable, digital atlas and database of historical places, allowing scholars, students, journalists and enthusiasts to explore the city across time periods. It will be open source and community-built, engaging local museums, historical societies, universities, citizen cartographers and the New York tech community to help gather data, and to contribute code and expertise.

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Project Team

Matthew Knutzen, David Riordan, Ben Vershbow

Matt Knutzen is Geospatial Librarian of the Map Division and Acting Curator of the Local History and Genealogy Division at The New York Public Library. Since 2001, he's overseen the Library’s 435,000 maps and 25,000 books and atlases, both developing and stewarding the collection. He has helped the library establish a vision for old map on the web, through scaled digitization of old maps, creation of interactive public engagement tools for their crowdsourced transformation into new historical spatial datasets. Matt is also a cartographer and a artist, publishing and exhibiting his work in New York City and abroad.

David Riordan is Manager of Product and R&D in NYPL Labs, The New York Public Library’s digital innovation team, where he has overseen several of NYPL’s most celebrated digital projects. In addition to product management, David acts as the team’s frequent spokesperson and reverse engineer. In his free time, David is part of csv sound system, a data-driven art collective of journalists and hackers based in New York City.

Ben Vershbow is Director of NYPL Labs, an interdisciplinary team at The New York Public Library working to share and foster new uses of library collections on the Internet. Under Ben’s leadership, Labs has become known for crafting imaginative digital experiences around archives and heritage collections, often involving the public directly in the work of organizing, enriching, and remixing library data. Before joining NYPL in 2008, Ben worked with digital publishing pioneer Bob Stein at the Institute for the Future of the Book. Ben originally studied theater at Yale, and works as a director and performer around New York.

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