As we’ve seen with the podcasts with a NYC theme of any kind, there are a lot of videos out there that reference the city. Most are perfectly ok and are great for wasting a few minutes while you’re waiting or thinking about something else to do.
But ArtsGazing isn’t looking for ok, we want videos that bring us the real feel of the city: exploring sites, history, and the people that made (and continue to make) this town the best damn place in the world. That means discovering creators that absolutely love the city and want to share their knowledge, exploring some of the smaller (but essential) museums’ video archives, and even using non-human sources to get our Gotham fix. So get ready to press play and experience the NYC of cyberspace!
Digital Stage – Apollo Theater
Bring excitement and world-renowned talent to your laptop or tablet with Digital Stage, the new programming feature of NYC’s famous Apollo Theater. This special section has a mix of past Apollo events and new performances, all free to view. In addition, on Mondays they offer a new playlist of music curated by an Apollo staff member, available on the site and Spotify.
Blueprint NYC – NYC.GOV
On the NYC website, besides the government issued advice and legal information, there’s also NYC Media, the official broadcast and media production group of the City of New York. There’s lots of TV shows archived on the site; one of the best is Blueprint NYC, with 30 minute episodes exploring buildings and sites around town with strong cultural and historic identities. Suitable for kids and adults, the videos make an excellent starting point for discussing local and American history. One great episode is on the Merchant’s House, a historic museum home filled with fascinating details of daily life in the early 19th century.
Various tours and lectures – The Grolier Club
The Grolier Club is one of those unexpected gems that makes city life so interesting. Founded in 1884, the club’s main mission is as a society for bibliophiles and people interested in the graphic arts but just as important is their continued effort to promote interest and exploration in these fields through free exhibits held at their midtown location. Every single time we’ve gone to one of their shows, we’ve learned something new and interesting about history, literature, society or art –making this one of the few places where no matter how much you know when you walk in, you’ll know a bit more when you leave. They offer several videos of past exhibit lectures and commentary on Vimeo, with one of the most interesting being a tour of their winter 2019 show Five Hundred Years of Women’s Work, led by Lisa Baskin, who assembled the collection.
Preservation School and Six to Celebrate – Historic Districts Council
The Historic Districts Council is a non-profit preservation society for NYC neighborhoods. Founded in 1970, they provide technical and strategic support to local groups and individuals to save and preserve historic buildings. They also monitor the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission, work with city planners as well as private developers to create a balance between a neighborhood’s history and current needs. Part of their mission is educating the public on aspects of architectural history, building material, and urban planning, through downloadable walking tour itineraries called Six to Celebrate and a course called Preservation School. Several videos of lectures are available for free on YouTube, the quality isn’t the best but the sound is clear.
NYC History Tours – Urbanist
Walking through NYC neighborhoods is one of life’s great pleasures – and fortunately for us, there are a lot of videos where you can experience that joy while inside. One of our favorite YouTube channels is NYC History Tours, which has five programs available at the moment: Chinatown, SoHo, Meatpacking District, Times Square, and the Garment District. All are about 30 minutes, filled with interesting facts, and keep us from missing our city too much.
NYC Webcams – Various sites
Webcams are oddly soothing ways to pass the time (as long as you aren’t on them). There are several operating in the city, covering nature and urban landscapes, available for general viewing online. NY Harbor has a camera that sweeps across the water, showing lower Manhattan and the Verrazano Narrows. There are a lot of ads placed around the live image which can be distracting, making this a short term viewing experience at best. Another nature-type website is Surfline.com, with cameras in Kings (that’s Brooklyn to those who don’t know), Queens, Long Island (Nassau and Suffolk) and the Jersey shore. The site gives current stats for weather and surf conditions as well as a live video feed. The downside is that the free video is constantly interrupted by ads, if you want unlimited viewing you’ll need to sign up. The EarthCam has a multitude of NYC cameras, many live, others videos of various events in the city (New Year’s eve in Times Square, parades, etc). The Times Square cam may be lacking in foot traffic at the moment but the pigeons are doing their best to keep the place lively. We like to do a full screen view of this one when we sit with our morning coffee – it’s like looking outside an office window.