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Explore NYC's history with this amazing new interactive map database

By Clayton Guse

It's hard to overstate the degree at which New York has evolved since its founding. The city's rich history is visible through the hundreds of landmarks and plaques scattered across town. Even so, diving into the archives and researching the events that shaped NYC is no simple task.

If you're not looking to sift through pages of historical records, there is another, more simple way to gain an understanding of how the New York of yesteryear laid the foundation for the New York of today: maps.

And when it comes to archiving historical maps of the city, the New York Public Library is the cream of the crop. In a project that ought to make any history nerd tingle, the institution teamed up with the Knight Foundation to create the NYC Space/Time Directory, an interactive, digitized collection of maps dating back to the mid-19th century.

The tool allows users to select a decade between 1850 and 1949, and overlay archived maps on a contemporary grid of the city. The result is something that's truly beautiful: a side-by-side comparison that reveals how a neighborhood was once laid out, and how it evolved into its current state.

You can play around with the whole project here. If you're still looking to channel your inner cartographer, you can brush up on another collection of maps that we curated in an effort to help you be a better New Yorker.


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