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Archive for November 3rd, 2010

In my travels through the internet, I recently stumbled on two websites that have a unique take on using digital media to present the history of about New York City in general and the Village in particular.

The first, Museum Planet was started only in March 2010 with the ambitious goal to put every historic site on the planet on the internet, beginning with New York City and Venice.

In essence it is a virtual walking tour complete with interactive maps, photos, textual descriptions and audio narration. With any walking tour, Museum Planet only presents a limited overview of the history and development of each neighborhood, including the West Village and the East Village, and the frame design is a tad clunky. That being said, it is an innovative way of merging text, audio, maps and photos to present historical information.

One particularly interesting feature is the Museum Planet biography and dictionary which features brief bios/descriptions of an extensive array of figures and places with links to the appropriate place in the walking tour.

The other website is Ephemeral New York, which has been up since 2008, is a more traditional blog with the goal of chronicling the city through photos, newspaper archives, and other scraps and artifacts that have been “edged into New York’s collective remainder bin” to “remember forgotten people, places, and relics of the way New Yorkers used to live”.

Conveniently indexed by neighborhood, the West Village & the East Village categories are definitely worth checking out for some brief snippets of Village history.

 

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I strongly disagreed with the way Gerard R. Wolfe characterized the riot at the Stonewall in <i> New York: 15 Walking Tours: An Architectural Guide to the Metropolis. </i> I understand that it is a guidebook, and not a major historical work. The phrasing “right to assemble peaceably” struck me as odd, and I realized why. The wording makes it sound like a First Amendment issue, when it is closer to a civil rights issue.

There were gay rights groups operating at the time, like the Mattachine Society, or the Daughters of Bilitis, and while they did have to worry about sending materials through the post-office due to obscenity laws, I do not recall having read about police raiding meetings of the organizations. It is quite possible headquarters would have been raided, which could have occurred during a meeting, but that goes back to the obscenity laws. In this hypothetical, the police were not there to disrupt a peaceful meeting, but to find obscene material.

My point is that gays and lesbians had the right to assemble peaceably, but not to socialize. An affectionate gay couple would not be welcomed at most bars during that era. Hand holding and touching would have generated stares from other guests, and possibly a violent reaction outside. The Stonewall Inn and other gay bars served as one of the main venues for socializing. Given the small space in the guidebook, I would have written, “right to socialize free from police harassment.”

 

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