A website called "The Roaring Twenties" has introduced a way to go back in time to the New York of the 1800s to the 1930s by using hearing and listening skills. It is "an interactive exploration of the historical soundscape of New York City" and is truly a gem to be bookmarked.
"Recorded sound presents new challenges as well as opportunities ... any recording is highly mediated by layers of technology that must be accounted for, but a more fundamental challenge lies in the fact that, while people hear with their ears, they listen with their minds. The best work in aural history is as much about listening as it is about sound, recovering the meaning of sound as well as the sound itself" the website explains in the Introduction.
There are approximately 350 documents available, from handwritten letters and notations, media, and official documents. Newsreels compliment the site. There are sounds recorded from every source imaginable: radio, trains, boats, sidewalks, and more.
The Roaring Twenties "offers an informational environment of media and data. Letters, forms, photographs, sound motion pictures, and other kinds of artifacts cumulatively constitute a network of content and context that engages the visitor's historical imagination" (source). There is an interactive map showing the city as it was and its current state.
For example: Click on the map of "The City of New York." Click on the ink quill icon in "Borough of Richmond." You will learn in December 15, 1930 a Mr. Kaplan wrote a letter complaining of noisy neighbors. The Commissioner of Health responded. Three tabs will pop up: Information, which gives a short explanation of the issue, Source, which shows where the information you are reading is archived, and Documents, where you can see and read the actual letter written by Mr. Kaplan, who believes noisy neighbors "should be curbed to the greatest extent of the law." Click on the newsreel icon nearest "Public beach" on Coney Island and see vintage newsreel of a "Coney Island Troubadour" singing, surrounded by beach-goers; many watch the camera more intently than watching the entertainer. A timeline reports an 1893 newspaper editorial addressed the growing problem of street noise on health.
The website is also an excellent resource for educators, historians, and genealogists. We can learn so much from the past about ourselves, our environment, and our future. These sounds prove some things never change, and many things are universal.
Check out the website HERE.
My own website and books HERE
Photo of J. Yates credit HERE