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Visit gritty 1980s New York City with help from MoMA’s archives

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See the Lower East Side in all its vintage, pre-gentrification glory

Ricardo Nicolayevsky, NYC ’83.
Via the Museum of Modern Art

For the past two years, the Museum of Modern Art has been making films and videos from its collection accessible for all as part of its “Moving-image works from the MoMA collection” series. Through the program, MoMA has digitized six vintage films, ranging from a Lower East Side-set short by D.W. Griffith to a Swedish tour company’s look at Manhattan in 1911.

And now, the museum has uploaded a fascinating relic of 1980s New York City, showing the city in all its gritty, pre-Disneyfied glory. The short, titled “NYC ’83,” is the work of Mexican artist Ricardo Nicolayevsky, who moved to the city in the ’80s to attend film school at NYU. He used Super8 and 16mm film to produce a series of atmospheric films that featured his friends and regular New Yorkers in their element.

Nicolayevsky filmed this particular short on the Lower East Side, and while landmarks aren’t particularly visible in the black-and-white film, it’s a compelling portrait of, as MoMA puts it, “the enduring grit of a soon-to-be-gentrified neighborhood.”

Alas, it’s not embeddable, but head on over to MoMA’s website to check out the film in all its glory.