The NYC Municipal Archives’ “Sound and Vision” project combines NYPD surveillance films from the 1960s and 70s with vintage WNYC radio broadcasts to create a multifaceted lens on the competing aspirations and challenges of civic life in New York City during the 20th century.

View the NYPD surveillance of NAACP and CORE activists while listening to Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech to the City Council after winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Watch as police try to contain the counter-culture of anti-Vietnam War demonstrations in Central Park while hearing Mayor John Lindsay decry the “whole Vietnam situation” as a mess. Wonder at the significance of surveillance conducted on returning NASA astronauts while Jackie Robinson and his son talk excitedly about the moon landing. Discover often unknown facets of the City’s history through the collections of the New York City Municipal Archives Department of Records and Information Services.


  • NYC Department of Records and Information Services

    NYC Department of Records and Information Services


    Beginning in 1904 with the “Italian Squad’s” focus on anarchists and continuing to the present day, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) has conducted surveillance of individuals and infiltrated organizations perceived as enemies of the status quo. At different periods, the focus was on immigrants, labor leaders, Nazi supporters, socialists, anarchists, and communists. One of the most prolific squads was the Bureau of Special Services and Investigations (BOSSI), later known as the Special Services Division.

    Although BOSSI gathered intelligence on individuals and groups arrayed along the political spectrum, their main focus was on civil rights, anti-war and feminist protestors. The records, including surveillance film, created by BOSSI now provide unique documentation of one of the most turbulent eras in the City and nation’s history.  The materials address subjects such as the Vietnam War, the nascent environmental movement, racial and gender discrimination, fair housing, workers’ rights, as well as global issues such as independence and sovereignty, the spread of communism, and poverty.


    Grover Whalen, Commissioner of the Department of Plant & Structures launched WNYC Radio in 1924. Through their original programming and recordings made at City Hall events and press conferences, WNYC Radio reporters, engineers and producers captured a wide range of important cultural and political personalities. Over time, WNYC Radio grew into both AM and FM stations, as well as a television station that enhanced the civic life of New Yorkers until Mayor Giuliani privatized WNYC in 1996. Today, the WNYC Foundation continues the mission of WNYC-AM/FM and TV as part of the non-profit corporation New York Public Radio.

    WNYC covered some of the key developments of the 20th century in the City of New York and the world at large. The Space Race, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the Cold War, Civil Rights, and Nelson Mandela’s 1990 visit are just some of the historic periods and events documented in these recordings. WNYC also brought arts, culture and entertainment to New Yorkers with regular poetry readings, festivals, interviews with prominent artists, as well as features on local occurrences and developments in the neighborhoods of New York City.

NYC Undercover: Post-War Sound and Vision from NYPD Surveillance and WNYC Radio

 archive : 2023

Featuring: Various Artists

Curated by: Chris Nicols

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  • NYC Department of Records and Information Services


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