While selecting architectural plans of buildings in lower Manhattan for a display in connection with the recent Open House New York event, City archivists came across an over-size multi-page set of detailed plans and elevations for a “Manhattan Civic Center,” circa 1964. If implemented, this grand scheme would have demolished 31 Chambers Street (home of the Municipal Archives) and radically transformed City Hall Park and the blocks between Broadway and Lafayette Street, from Chambers Street north to Worth Street. The plan called for a 54-story office building that anchored a three-level landscaped platform with reflecting pool, restaurants, shops, and two levels of underground parking for 1,400 cars. Only the City Hall and Municipal Building remained; every other extant building would have vanished to accommodate this grand vision. But it never happened. Why? For answers we turned again to the always rewarding Municipal Library vertical files and publications, and Municipal Archives collections.
It is perhaps not surprising that those of us who work at the NYC Department of Records and Information Services (DORIS) see the value in the services we perform preserving the records of City government and helping communities connect with that material. In a more recent development, many colleagues are extending the agency’s mission into organizations and communities across New York City. The agency is grappling with how to improve accessibility to the Archives and Library holdings, and reaching out to various communities. So it makes sense to look to members of our team for inspiration—people who are engaging with public history and living the mission through their volunteer work and extracurricular pursuits.
Strikes. New York’s had a few. And maybe never so many as during the 1930s. It seems as if every industry had a strike, judging from New York Police Department and Mayoral records. The NYPD Deputy Chief Inspector developed a list of the most important strikes between 1928 and 1937, inclusive. There was the paper-box strike, the Eagle pencil strike, the clothing salesmen strike, the Fur Workers, the Bee Line Bus workers (on multiple occasions), the Dugan Brothers Chauffeurs, the Cushman Bakery workers and the Building Services workers (requiring the deployment of 2,064 NYPD personnel—a record number) among others. All were related to fair wages and working conditions.
Cataloging, this week’s blog, is the first in a series about the ‘behind-the-scenes’ work City archivists perform to preserve and provide access to the collections.
Visitors to the Municipal Archives’ new exhibit: Feeding the City: The Unpublished WPA Federal Writers’ Project Manuscript, 1935-1942, will have the opportunity to view rare vintage recipes and photographs, bold and colorful advertising brochures, and excerpts from the manuscript. It’s all about food and New York City’s role in the global food marketplace, with fascinating materials drawn from the Archives’ collection of the NYC Unit of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) Federal Writers’ Project.
This week’s blog features images from the Municipal Archives’ installation at the 2018 Photoville exposition at Brooklyn Bridge Park. The photographs in the exhibit were selected from the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP) photograph collection. The FWP was one of the innovative Works Progress Administration (WPA) programs devised to alleviate mass unemployment caused by the Great Depression of the 1930s.