The Skyscraper Museum
The Skyscraper Museum Collections Online
The Skyscraper Museum

The Skyscraper Museum is devoted to the study of high-rise building, past, present, and future. The Museum explores tall buildings as objects of design, products of technology, sites of construction, investments in real estate, and places of work and residence. This site will look better in a browser that supports web standards, but it is accessible to any browser or Internet device.


The Museum's Online Archive includes a series of digital projects which make public the Museum’s collections. The interactive databases allow users to search by a variety of methods, or simply to explore at their whim!
Several Finding Aids are also available for researchers.

Click here for the Museum's Rights and Reproduction policy.

Collections Online:

The Visual Index to the Virtual Archive 2 is an interactive interface providing access to The Skyscraper Museum's unique collection of more than 1,000 photographs of the construction of the Empire State Building and the World Trade Center towers. Visitors can explore the building progress for each project and view photographs of the rising structures, workers, machinery, ceremonies, and city scenes. Complete with captions and descriptions of the images, VIVA 2 allows visitors to discover and compare the building technologies and methods of the Empire State Building in the 1930's and of the World Trade Center towers in the 1960's and the 1970's.

Included in VIVA 2 is a scrapbook of over 500 original construction photographs of the Empire State Building compiled in 1931 by its general contractors, Starrett Brothers and Eken, giants in the building industry. The Empire State Building collection also features the "Tower of Plans," which illustrates how the area of the circulation core shrinks as the building rises while the ring of office space remains a constant 28 feet. The supplemental materials for the World Trade Center Towers include structural diagrams, floor plans, and audio clips concerning the construction of the two buildings. Leslie E. Robertson and Associates (LERA), the structural engineering firm behind the Towers, documented nearly every single stage of the construction process, allowing for virtually perfect historical record. VIVA 2 was created with the support of a Learning Opportunities Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, an independent Federal grant-making agency dedicated to creating and sustaining a nation of learners.

In 2001, the Museum received a grant for the conservation of the Starrett scrapbook from The Conservation Treatment Grant Program, administered by the Greater Hudson Heritage Network (Greater Hudson), in association with the Museum Program of the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA). The grant made it possible for a professional conservator to completely conserve the scrapbook, which was disassembled, the deteriorating black paper pages, with their white ink labeling were de-acidified and repaired, and the photographs were scanned, digitized and archived, and repositioned. The full pages of the scrapbook were then scanned and have been made viewable on line in the VIVA2 project.

VIVA: Visual Index to the Virtual Archive, an innovative visually-based interface uses a 3-D computer model of Manhattan as a click-on map, allows web visitors to view the city, present and past, and to access the Museum's collections through an on-line, searchable database. The idea of a visual index to the collection recognizes the importance of graphic representation in both the medium of the website and in the way that visitors, virtual or actual, come to understand and comprehend a city through its geography and landmarks. An index to the Museum's archives based on the image of the city allows web visitors or researchers to explore specific buildings or districts and their histories without, necessarily, coming to the site with a specific topic or question in mind. An IMLS National Leadership Grant in the Museums online category for History funded this project.

Bankers Trust Virtual Archive
The Banker’s Trust Virtual Archive catalogues 200 vintage construction progress photographs, representing a collection of 213 owned by The Skyscraper Museum, and 27 owned by structural engineers Weiskopf and Pickworth LLP, of 14-16 Wall Street, also known as the Bankers Trust Building.

The collection is organized chronologically, in the order recorded on the images by the photographer; images can also be viewed by category. The chronological section collects the archive into two sets. The first set of photographs date from 1910-1911 and record the demolition of the Gillender and Stevens Buildings and the progress of the new Bankers Trust Building. The second set of photographs date from 1931-1933 and document the removal of the old Astor Building, 9 Pine Street and the Hanover National Bank, and the construction of the annex. This collection of photographs was donated to The Skyscraper Museum by the Bankers Trust Foundation. The Virtual Archive was made possible by generous funding from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.

The Bankers Trust Virtual Archive is a pilot project to identify, inventory, and create a database of important historical records relating to skyscrapers and their urban milieu. Generally, the Virtual Archive is a long-range effort to collect documents relating to the development, design, construction, operation, and occupation of high-rise buildings. The aim is to preserve a wide range of materials not commonly collected by the major archives specializing in architecture and design, or that are in danger of being lost. This material includes records of construction companies, engineers, building owners and managers, trade associations, and other areas.

Finding Aids

Guide to the Records of Leslie E. Robertson and Associates (LERA): World Trade Center Construction Images
ca. 1969-1973

[Original artifact sizes are listed in the Finding Aid. Uncompressed Archival scans average 20 MB (8 bit color TIFF)]

Guide to the Erection Views Of Empire State Building : A Photograph Album Compiled by Starrett Brothers and Eken Incorporated
ca. 1929-1931

[Original artifact sizes are listed in the Finding Aid. Uncompressed Archival scans average 20 MB (8 bit color TIFF)]

Guide to the Bankers Trust Company Building Photograph Collection
(Bulk 1931-1933)

[Original artifact sizes are listed in the Finding Aid. Uncompressed Archival scans average 70 MB (8 bit color TIFF)]

Guide to the Records of HRH Construction
(Bulk 1929-1938)

Guide to the Records of the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY)
(Bulk 1931-1958)

Guide to the Records of Weiskopf & Pickworth Consulting Engineers
1901-1971, 1998
(Bulk 1901-1936)

[Original artifact sizes are listed in the Finding Aid. Uncompressed Archival scans average 70 MB (8 bit color TIFF)]