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Map Lets People Listen In On New York In The ’20s

Interactive sound map proves that the Roaring Twenties did indeed roar.

Kristen Nozell
Kristen Nozell on October 29, 2013. @kristen_n

The Roaring ‘Twenties‘ is an online interactive database that allows users to explore the soundscape of that noisy decade through documented noise complaints and newsreels. Project creator Emily Thompson, a historian at Princeton University, explains that the map allows users to ‘listen in on the past’ via historic sound recordings, which are becoming increasingly available online.

The catalogue of information used in the creation of the aural map consists of three types of data: 54 unique excerpts from Fox Movietone newsreels spanning from 1926 to 1930, approximately 350 written noise complaints (usually submitted by the aggravated writers to the Mayor or Commissioner of Health), and various excerpts from newspapers and magazines to further illuminate the context.

The database provides three different ways to navigate the content. The ‘Sound’ portal leads to a grid which categorizes the data by type of noise, including ‘Carnival Barkers’ and ‘Defective Mufflers.’ Selecting ‘Space’ leads users to a familiar Google Maps interface with an antiquated facelift, where the noises are plotted based on the location they were recorded or submitted. Finally, ‘Time’ allows users to view the data set chronologically, on a timeline that stretches from 1900 to 1933.

The Roaring Twenties

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