Preservation and Access: Humanities Collections and Reference Resources

Period of Performance

7/1/2015 - 3/31/2017

Funding Totals

$125,000.00 (approved)
$124,992.21 (awarded)

New York City Police Department Photograph Collection, 1914-1975, Preservation and Access Project

FAIN: PW-228185-15

New York City Department of Records and Information Services (New York, NY 10007-1210)
Michael Lorenzini (Project Director: July 2014 to July 2017)

Rehousing, describing, and digitizing a collection of criminal justice photographs taken by the New York City Police Department from 1914 to 1975.

The Municipal Archives requests Endowment support for a project to re-house, describe, digitize, and make publicly accessible on the internet approximately 30,000 photographs (out of a collection totaling 187,000 images). The photographs constitute a substantial addition to the Archives’ collection of records pertaining to the administration of criminal justice. Their significance extends well beyond the simple documentation of criminal activity; they provide a unique visual perspective on numerous important themes in American history. The collection has been deemed a priority in order to prevent further deterioration from damaging storage materials and decaying negatives. There are four components to the proposed project: re-housing, description, digital re-formatting, and public access via the Internet. The proposed work plan specifies that all project activities will be performed in-house. The project timetable is twelve months, from July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2016.

Media Coverage

Dusting Off a Photographic Trove to Rival Weegee’s (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Michael Wilson
Publication: The New York Times
Date: 3/20/2015

A Roomful of Death and Destruction (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Luc Sante
Publication: The New York Review of Books
Date: 6/22/2015

Haunting Old NYC Crime Scenes & Infamous Hoarders (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Jessica Leibowitz & Christopher Robbins
Publication: Gothamist
Date: 12/10/2015

Historical NYPD Crime Scene Photos to be Digitized and Released to the Public (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Michael Zhang
Publication: PetaPixel
Date: 3/25/2015

30,000 NYPD Crime Photographs Will Go Online (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Allison Meier
Publication: Hyperallergic
Date: 3/25/2015

Associated Products

Curators in Conversation: Police Photography in the Archive and the Museum (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: Curators in Conversation: Police Photography in the Archive and the Museum
Author: Michael Lorenzini
Abstract: The Dark Archive Symposium. Sponsored by Macquerie University and the Sydney Justice & Police Museum, in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Prof. Katherine Biber in conversation with Curator Nerida Campbell of the Sydney Living Museums and Michael Lorenzini of the New York City Municipal Archives on the ethics of reusing forensic photography.
Date: 05/13/2016
Conference Name: The Dark Archive Symposium

Documenting the City: Crime, writing and photography (Public Lecture or Presentation)
Title: Documenting the City: Crime, writing and photography
Abstract: In conversation with Luc Sante, Michael Lorenzini, Peter Doyle and Katherine Biber How do we tell the stories of our cities? What is the role of photography, the archive and writing in understanding the city’s narratives, especially the ordinary, the criminal or the underbelly? An in conversation at the Justice & Police Museum, home of the Police Forensic Archive a photographic record of criminal cases in early 20th century Sydney. Featuring author Peter Doyle Crooks Like Us (2009) and City of Shadows: Sydney Police Photographs 1912-1948 (2005); acclaimed writer and critic Luc Sante The Other Paris (2015); and Michael Lorenzini (Deputy Director of New York City Archives). A rare opportunity to see these internationally recognized commentators sharing perspectives of their own cities, as they explore the nexus between archives, photography and writing, and the ways in which we document and tell stories of our cities. Chaired by legal scholar, historian and criminologist Professor Katherine Biber, a panel discussion followed by a question and answer session. Presented in collaboration with Macquarie University
Author: Michael Lorenzini
Date: 05/12/2016
Location: Justice & Police Museum, Sydney, Australia
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: Documenting the City, event listing.

Pretty Girl Charged With Clever Swindle: Women and Crime in Early 20th-Century New York (Exhibition)
Title: Pretty Girl Charged With Clever Swindle: Women and Crime in Early 20th-Century New York
Curator: Quinn Berkman and Michael Lorenzini
Abstract: The mug shot, or criminal portrait, is one of the earliest uses of police photography. Used primarily to identify known criminals, its use was not without controversy and misidentification was common. In addition, mug shots were often used as a form of public shaming. These images capture a rich cross-section of the city’s population, depicting dress and social status in addition to possible criminal behavior. Focusing solely on women captured by police camera, this exhibit examines how these unique portraits offer a fascinating window into the lives of women in early 20th-century New York.
Year: 2016
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: Online exhibit of the 2016 Pop-Up Exhibit: Badgers and sneak thieves, dishonest servants and disorderly houses, Fagins, shoplifters, con artists and grifters. Who were these pretty girls and hard women? Life was never easy for women in New York and the way they were treated by the law and the press varied according to their social class. Was it poverty or hysteria? Was she an “idle housewife” or a “hard-working stenographer”? Was it “kleptomania” or “grand larceny”?
Secondary URL:
Secondary URL Description: Photoville NYC 2016