Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Historical footage and virtual view

In the last few days, I've come across a couple really cool videos. One shows actual footage of NYC circa the late 1800s to the early 1900s. Most of the content is street scenes, but there are also shots of landmarks such as the Flatiron Building, the Brooklyn Bridge, and many others. The B&W images are jerky of course, blurred by age and poor lighting in spots.

The second video is a virtual tour of 17th century London. The computer-generated images take us down alleys, over rooftops, and into marketplaces in a grand simulation of 'what London must have looked like' at the time. The content is presented in 3-D and in color, and it's slick with detail such as shop signs and garbage cans.

Despite the obviously crisp package delivered by the virtual tour, I found it lacking. It showed no people, just an empty shell of a city once alive with their pulsing activity.
The historical NYC footage by contrast was loaded with people - folks driving cars, riding horses, marching in parades, even men engaged in a street fight. It showed real people living real lives, touching in their familiarity even in their now-archaic manner of dress. As a native New Yorker, I found myself pausing the video, trying to reconcile the NY I know with the NY of the past. Different, yes. But oh, so familiar.

What a treasure trove for researchers. And what a delight for people-watchers and city-lovers everywhere.


  1. Love these old footages. Wouldn't you like to step through the picture for a day or two? Thanks for sharing Jeanne!

  2. I would indeed love to step into the picture for a couple days! I think that longing must be fairly common - that's where time travel stories come from :)