Remembering Catherine Latimer: The First Black Librarian of NYPL

Authored by Hunter Albini

View of researchers using the Schomburg Collection, when it was the 135th Street Branch Library Division of Negro Literature, History and Prints, as it looked in 1938, with Catherine A. Latimer, reference librarian of the collection, in left background.

In the heart of Harlem, on Malcolm X Boulevard between 135th and 136th Street, stands the Schomburg Center for Research and Black Culture. As one of the research branches within the New York Public Library system, it is “one of the world’s leading cultural institutions devoted to the research, preservation, and exhibition of materials focused on African American, African Diaspora, and African experiences” (NYPL 2021, para. 1). New York Public Library purchased the materials from the personal collection of self-described “bibliophile” Arturo Alfonso Schomburg in 1926, who was later appointed curator of the collection (NYPL 2021). One of the lesser-known people involved in the birth of the Schomburg Collection was Catherine Latimer, the reference librarian for the collection and NYPL’s very first Black librarian.  

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Exploring Ethnicity and Religion in a Map of Jamaica, Queens – 4th Ward in 1907

Authored by Malcolm Harris

Map of the roads, buildings, and major landmarks of downtown Jamaica, Queens. Created with a black color printing on a tan sheet. Includes a red-lettered advertisement by Meynen, Booth, and Eno Long Island Real Estate

Surveyed and Designed in 1907 by D. J. Evans and Co. and published by Meynen, Booth, and Eno Long Island Real Estate


This map of Jamaica, Queens created in 1907 by the surveyor firm D. J. Evans and Co. is a representation of the urban development that occurred following a surge in new residents to the city. From the beginning of 1900 – with the population of Jamaica, Queens being estimated at almost 153,000 – there is steady growth that occurs leading to the city being the home for just over 248,000 people by 1910.[1] This map is created for the local real estate company of Meynen, Booth, and Eno[2], who like other small relators in the area looked to capitalize on the recent redevelopments of the LIRR, which was electrified for faster service by rail by 1908 as well as the opening of the Queensboro bridge to direct vehicle travel from Manhattan to the outer parts of Long Island.[3] [4]




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Mapping the History of College Point: The Impact of Immigrants on a Neighborhood in Queens

Authored by Megan Smead

Image of Fire Insurance Map of College Point, Queens watermarked with New York Public Library logo

Map of College Point, Queens, NY from the Sanborn Map Company, Atlas 141, Queens V. 5, Plate No. 15, 1903, made available by the Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division of the New York Public Library.2

The Sanborn Map Company created fire insurance maps beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, showing the location and construction of buildings and roads in major cities across the United States, which allowed insurance companies to assess fire risk.1 The Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division of the New York Public Library has digitized many atlases and maps, including the Sanborn map in Figure 1, which represents College Point, Queens, NY in 1903. As part of an Academic Service-Learning experience through St. John’s University, I georectified this map, and others from the same atlas of Queens. The georectification process entails using the NYPL Map Warper tool to match coordinates from the historical map to a current map in order to align the two maps. Georectification of historical maps allows genealogists, historians, architects, urban planners and members of the public to observe geographic and demographic changes over time, and to make connections to the past. Volunteering my time and skills in service to the public by georectifiying maps allows me to strive towards fulfilling the Vincentian mission of service that is essential to St. John’s University. Continue reading

“Warping” through Queens history with the NYPL Map Warper tool

insurance maps of the borough of queens, vol 2, 1915

Insurance Maps of the Borough of Queens, City of New York, Volume Two, published in 1915 and digitally reproduced on the NYPL Map Warper according to a CC0 1.0 license.

Authored by Maddy Vericker

The NYPL Map Warper is a collection of New York-area maps and atlases that have been digitized and published online under a Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication license.[1] The coolest thing about the Map Warper tool is that it is also a crowdsourcing project that relies on volunteers to pin old maps to modern satellite maps, a process called georectification.[2]  Exploring the maps that populate the website reveals much about the history of a city that is constantly evolving, and in researching the Sanborn Map Co.’s Insurance Maps of the Borough of Queens, City of New York, Volume Two,[3] these changes are even more apparent. Continue reading

Dr. King and Selma: A limited View

Authored by Emily Lacey

Images of microfilm from the Staten Island Advance article on Dr. Kings arrest in Selma 2/1/1965.

Article written by unsourced author from the Staten Island Advances February 1, 1965 issue on Dr. King and his arrest in Selma, Alabama


Microfilm was never something I had given any thought to throughout my research endeavors. So, when the opportunity arose to learn how to use it, and work with a collection of it, I was interested. Microfilm is interesting, in that during its prime it was an innovative way to house a large amount of materials. The New Dorp Library has an extensive collection of microfilm, every newspaper edition from the Staten Island Advance from 1964- 2008 is housed in filing cabinets, and reels of film for public use. The front page of a February 1, 1965 paper stood out to me, not because of the headline article, but because to the left with two small column was an article on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. being arrested in Selma. This little article, along with a follow up equally as short on page 9 was what the paper had representing this historic time.

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Mapping 19th Century London: A Place of Extreme Inequality

Authored by Christina Boyle

A map of London from 1815.

A map of 1815 London, England, published by “G. Jones.” The map is part of the digital collections of The New York Public Library.

This map of London, published in 1815, represents the large, bustling capital of England. Today, London is the metropolitan cultural center of Britain,1 but in the early 19th century, it was a city of the poor working class.2 During this time, renowned authors such as Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell, and Charlotte Bronte were writing, setting their works in the London depicted in this map. The London that they knew was far different from that of today. This map depicts a city rich in history, with still-relevant main streets, docks, and landmarks that currently remain. It also captures the London that has been portrayed by these and other Napoleonic and Victorian writers: a smoggy and sooty city rife with poverty and distress. Continue reading

The Development of Borough Park

Authored by Laura Dellova

Part of Ward 30, Section 17; Map bounded by 12th Ave., 49th St., 9th Ave.; Including 37th St., 10th Ave., 39th St.

Part of Ward 30, Section 17; Map bounded by 12th Ave., 49th St., 9th Ave.; Including 37th St., 10th Ave., 39th St.

It has been intriguing to rectify the maps through New York Public Library’s Map Warper Program. As I went forth on this project I immediately chose to work with a map from Brooklyn. This map—made in 1905 in the area we now know as Borough Park—shows an address that is very close to my heart. In 1925 my great-grandparents bought a house on 43rd between 12th and Fort Hamilton Avenue. It is the house where my grandmother spent her childhood years and years later the same house is where my parents lived when they first got married.

This is an important piece of my family history and I wanted to look into the development of this neighborhood. This map was made as a result of the areas suburbanization, transforming the once fertile farmland. In 1905 the twentieth assembly district known as Borough Park, the population was in total of 81,365 inhabitants.[1] 76,214 of those were citizens and the remaining 5,151 were foreigners, telling me that this was a neighborhood that catered more to those who were already citizens. This number was important in my understanding of the history and the social as well as physical growth of Borough Park as a community. Continue reading