The New York Times and Google Cloud partner to digitize the Times’ historic archive of photos and clippings.

The Background:

Google Cloud and the New York Times joined forces at Google NEXT. The Google Cloud NY Times partnership exhibit was part of a larger series of interactive environments that demonstrated how Google Cloud empowers organizations through a multitude of tools and services.

The Challenge

In New York City, tucked multiple stories beneath Times Square, the Times’ has a collection of historic clippings, photos, and other paper documents deemed ‘The Morgue.’ This catalogue had never been digitized and was managed by a single individual. In an effort to expand access to these documents and ensure the longevity of thousands of fragile items, the Times’ and Google Cloud embarked on an ambitious effort to digitize the entire collection. Beyond digitization, Google Cloud provides various other tools to unlock rich data hidden within each item.

The Solution

We travelled to the New York Times’ offices in Manhattan for a hands-on exploration of The Morgue. Following our site visit, our Creative Technology and 3D teams worked collaboratively to develop an experience that evoked the feeling of pouring through the historic archive. During this period, we had various conversations with the Google Cloud product teams to understand the various tools involved in the digitization effort in order to better highlight their unique functions.

The Experience:

At the Google Cloud NY Times partnership demo, attendees could engage in two interactive moments. The hero interactive element was a digital touch table. Users could explore a series of images pulled directly from The Morgue and would learn about various insights gained from leveraging Google’s AI and ML products. A second, more subtle, interactive allowed users to open and close digital drawers to reveal additional images from the subterranean collection.

The standout design element was a Google NEXT branded structure that evoked the movement of physical archives into the cloud. This was done through the creation of a heavy base of drawers - a nod to The Morgue’s various drawers and cabinets - that slowly dissolved into a series of open-air cubes.

The Results:

The Google Cloud NY Times partnership opened up the potential to unlock a trove of data using Google tools that can make hidden information - visual landmarks within images, handwritten information on clippings, connections to names and dates - readily accessible to journalists.

Having direct access to both the Times’ and the Google Cloud team allowed us to holistically understand the partnership and better highlight the importance of the digitization efforts and the specificity of each Cloud tool leveraged.

  • Digitization of NYT’s historic archive of photos and clippings
  • Unlocked hidden data readily accessible to journalists
  • Unmasked hidden connections between images and larger historical and social events
  • Digital drawers evoked a storage facility beneath Times Square
  • Smaller drawers embedded within the scenic structures triggered animations to highlight historic images


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