The Lively Morgue

tumblr_m59b96PqCe1r5568mo1_1280If you walk down two flights (a set of steps between one floor and the next) of stairs to the basement of an office building near Times Square and through some heavy metal doors, you’ll enter a place people rarely see – the morgue of the New York Times.

Lively” (full of life) isn’t a word you’d usually associate (connect) with “morgue.” Usually a morgue is a building or room in a hospital where bodies are kept until they are buried.

In the newspaper business, a morgue is something quite different. A newspaper morgue is an archive – a historical collection of photographs and information. Jeff Roth, who is the Times’ “morgue keeper,” called their morgue a “living, breathing thing” in an interview with National Public Radio (NPR). The photos and other documents in the morgue are used for historical stories and when writing obituaries – short biographies (story of a person’s life) that are written when someone dies.

The Times’ morgue is very large. In fact, huge (extremely large; enormous) would be an even better word to describe it. According to The Lively Morgue web site, the photos and other information fill 4,000 drawers. If you count all the forms (kinds) of traditional photographs, there are at least 10 million. To that you can add 13,500 DVDs, each containing about 5 gigabytes worth of images. If you have trouble wrapping your head around (understanding) all those numbers, think about it like this: If the Times published 10 of the traditional photos every weekday (Monday through Friday), it would take until the year 3935 to publish all of them.

A little more than two years ago, the Times created The Lively Morgue web site to begin to make it possible for people to see – and buy – their photographs and to share in the life and history of New York and the United States as well as in major events in world history.

Every month the Times chooses a group of photos at random (without plan or pattern) to add to The Lively Morgue web site. The most recent photos are on the home page, and you can find all the photos they have published on the archive page. When you click on a photo, you will be shown the back of the photo with a description and information about how it was used when it appeared in the Times.

Photographs like those in The Lively Morgue are great teachers. When we take time to study them, we can learn a lot about the life and history of the people and places we see in them. If you’d like to spend some time in the morgue, here is the link to The Lively Morgue home page. And here’s a short video introduction to The Lively Morgue by Jeff Roth.

~ Warren Ediger – ESL coach/tutor and creator of the Successful English web site, where you’ll find clear explanations and practical suggestions for better English.

Photo from The Lively Morgue.

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6 Responses to The Lively Morgue

  1. Dan says:

    Hi everyone out there

    Thanks Warren, even though I am a regular at NPR’s website I did not see this one that seems really interesting.

    That is certainly huge! I wonder how many hidden treasures are sitting in those drawers.

    To tell you the truth, I am not for collecting/gathering/keeping things. Nevertheless, I enjoy looking at old photos.

    Every now and then I even clear the memory of my phone from all the photos.

    It always source of great pleasure/wonder/mystery/illusion of experiencing the passing of time looking at pictures.

    I have always been fascinated by this moment of light captured/caged on a piece of paper/plastic and nowadays on owr phones’ memories.

    Thanks Warren

  2. Betty says:

    Thank you Dear Warren

    Your article above reminds me of another lesson you taught us more than three years ago.

    In your lesson “Good Grief!” posted on Thursday, May 26th, 2011, you taught us ““good grief” is an oxymoron because grief is the extreme sadness we feel when someone we love has died. Not many people would call that good.”

    So can I say “The Lively Morgue” is an oxymoron?

    Now I know a bit more about the New York Times Square, a place I visited three years ago.

    In fact, I used the British Library in London UK more than 30 years ago. To me the place was like a huge morgue for millions of ancient books, newspapers, magazines etc. The materials inside was so important that people need to apply for a special pass in order to enter the library.

    There were so many very old people in the library! They looked even older than those books.

    Those old books must be there still. But those old people surely must have been gone by now.

    One day, many many years later, someone somewhere will be reading all these articles written by Jeff, Lucy and Warren, and their learners – us.

    They discover a very lively website in here. I hope they thought we all are still alive. We will live on in this website.

    Warren I hope the grief three years ago has become more manageable for you today.

    Many thanks again.

    Betty 🙂

  3. Aécio Flávio Perim says:

    I’m still connected with the World Cup 2014 here. I’m enjoying the teams and the matches among them. I say this cup is the one for the weaker teams. They are showing their strengths in soccer skills. It is good for them to take a chance to win once at least. But I hope Brazil will be at the last match and it will be the champion again.
    The hex!

  4. Dan says:

    As I was born in 1970 I was looking at photos of that time.
    The photo I would like to pick as best between the ones posted is the one where a woman holding a fish at the market while smoking.

    Looking long enough, you can almost smell that fish and the cigarette. Wow, I like her style.


  5. Elvis.Johnny says:

    long time no reflection on what my points are as to our blog’s contents, so I think it would be a wonderful time to leave my comments now.
    okay. here we go,
    to me the only sets of phrases I would think of or recall when it comes to gathering files is high likely to be archive,keep record of sth, track record, sort out or tyding filefoders,
    I’ve never picked up a new world “morgue” to express the similar idea until now, thanks my coach Warren, you are birllant all years along.
    I think I am able to use it a lot in my following posts with this word, hope I won’t mess it up as I will be using it in my daily dairy that is a short of caption I’ ve been wirting in a notably social APP
    called MicroMessage in China, things goes pretty much like this, I get used to witing some of words to show the feelings of mine right at the moment when I take a photo and share it with my friend there,
    and then some of my buddies would comment to my post.
    I think that is in some ways similar to what the Lively Morgue did, putting a memorable photo of your daily life out there sharing your breathtakingly happy hour.
    well. that’s it, just stop here..
    bye for now.

  6. Parviz says:

    I am back, after almost 5 months.

Comments are closed.