Finally I tried the find place names tool, where you scroll around the map and click to type in names of places. This I enjoyed, because I had freedom to explore the map as I wished. I also found it interesting to see what others did and didn’t previously label. Often, simple things like schools or shops were already labelled, but often long or complicated places were not. This could either be out of laziness (it takes a bit to more effort to type Church (Episcopal)(Slate Roof)) or out of confusion (often abbreviated places would not be labelled, such as Ceramics Manu’try). I also noted that lots of church schools, appearing as School &c. were not attempted, while public schools labelled School were. It’s as if the &c. is too foreign and confusing to most users that they avoided transcribing it. Still, this mode would be more fun if I lived in NYC and knew the neighborhoods I was labelling.
The project uses crowdsourcing to check and augment the heavy lifting done by its computer system. The idea is to eventually create what they call a NYC “time machine;” a historic map database searchable by address that can display layers of what was at that address in the past. Not only is that a cool project but it will also make research much easier for historians interested in NYC, urban history, or many other things, but also make research and historical method much more accessible to the public. People could, themselves, discover the history of their own residence and neighborhood. Such a direct and tangible immediate connection to history has a lot of power and can be utilized well by public historians and educators. Participating in the crowdsourcing allows users part of that connection. So I think as a project in both current and finished form, the building inspector is right to use crowdsourcing.