Open Maps at the New York Public Library

Dear Reader,

As we at diablog were discussing immigration in the comments of this post, I thought it might be a good time to point you towards somewhere interesting.

Two months ago, the NY Public Library started publishing all its maps. For free. As in free beer. You can start exploring here:

Open Access Maps at NYPL

And what has that to do with immigration?

NYC is the number one spot when it comes to immigration. We are called the melting pot. We have a statue dedicated to liberty, with the famous lines on a bronze plaque:

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

No other place has seen more immigrants, than Ellis Island and NYC. And through the maps you can see, where they lived first. And where they are now.

Because there is an area called Germantown, in the 80s and 90s streets on the Upper Eastside. But the Germans have moved on a long time ago. Yorktown at one time was predominantly Irish, but it isn’t anymore. There still is Little Italy. But you have to search the Italians there. And equally the Lower East Side, once the center of Jewish immigrants, is now home to people from many backgrounds. What about the newer immigrant neighborhoods? Little India? Not so Indian anymore. Koreatown? Not very Korean.

Sure, Chinatown is still Chinatown. And it keeps growing. And there is a predominantly Russian neighborhood. But they are part of the city as much as any other part. And for some it takes longer.

The maps show, it takes time for both sides. For the immigrants to assimilate, and the “locals” – who just forgot, that they were immigrants once too – to see their new neighbors as just that, new neighbors. With some it took decades only. For some it takes a century. But in NY, after three years you are a New Yorker. And that makes it a lot easier. For both sides.

And by the way, the NY Public library – the second largest in the US and the third largest in the world -was started through a grant in the will of a German immigrant, John Jacob Astor. Other famous early donors included James Lenox, 1st generation American of Scottish decent, Andrew Carnegie, an immigrant from Scotland, Samuel Tilden, 1st generation American of English decent, and many many more.

Stay tuned,

Engine Room

4 thoughts on “Open Maps at the New York Public Library

  1. I love maps, particularly of areas I live & work.
    Before I go on holiday I always study maps of the areas I’m visiting.
    I see nothing wrong in immigrants in general as they all bring something to their newly adopted country. New foods & culture, providing of course you are prepared to accept them.
    Most of our immigrants are hard working and prepared to do menial jobs unlike the lazy indigenous population.
    We mustn’t forget that those of us from the great nations of the world went about colonising and trying to force our will & religion on people who didn’t want it.
    That has come back to bite us in the butt./
    I can remember when London Transport brought in Caribbeans to work on the buses & underground in the 60’s. Now to be replaced by eastern Europeans.
    In my small cul-de sac we have Scots, English, Chinese, French, Spanish, Nigerians & Indians.

  2. I read this last night before bed and enjoyed the mental journey of these places – Just amazing!! X



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