Forum Friday – Travel Through Time with the New York Public Library

Battle Against TimeEvery Friday I dip into the vast reservoir of information that is the Tech Savvy Ed Forum, and share one of the many gems that it holds with a wider audience. Sometimes the resources come from a freshly written post by one of the community members, and sometimes the resources have been aged gracefully before being shared. Why it has taken me almost two years to share The New York Public Library Digital Gallery is a mistake that I hope to not make again in the future. Back in mid-June of 2005, Tom Woodward (aka BionicTeacher), made a quick post about a unique site created by the New York Public Library. Tom gave a brief description of the site:

NY Public Library
has hundreds of thousands of digital works online. There are pictures, photographs, manuscripts and more. It is worth checking out.

I started poking around the site yesterday, and I was amazed by the huge amount of public domain images it contains. Over half a million images, pictures, and paintings covering everything from significant historical artwork to rare illustrated books. Some of the highlights include Goya’s Disasters of War and original prints from a North American Indian Portfolio. While those particular galleries weren’t terribly interesting for me, I did see a lot of educational value in some of the historical images of education, specifically how poor off the educational facilities were for minorities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The depth of copyright-free public domain images is also noteworthy. The very helpful Subject Search allows to to look for images of everything from Abacus to Ziggurats (the precursors to Pyramids). The beauty of the images is that you’re not looking at cartoonish drawings or symbols; most of them are lithographs or photographs that depict actual people in authentic settings and context. It’s not like looking at the perfectly cropped images in a textbook, and since most images are arranged in larger galleries, you usually don’t have just one or two images to look at. Instead, many scenes of past life from the U.S. and the world are depicted across several images, rather than the usual single snapshot in a textbook. Quite a nice way for those educators trying to use primary sources, or just teaching the concept of primary sources, to give students something visual to wrap their brains around.


  1. See, I’m glad you’re digging through old stuff as well as that’s a perfect link I haven’t yet added to the copyright site I’m working on.

    Forum Friday is a great idea by the way. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone else do something like this.


    1. That’s just plain awesome Maggie! I’ll have to do a post about that this Fall when I get a chance to introduce teachers to Voicethread. We have a PD day coming up on the 11th of August, and this will help jumpstart our exploration of VoiceThread 🙂

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