Teen Thursdays at BLDG 92

In 2014, NYC School’s Chancellor Carmen Farina announced a new program called Teen Thursdays, which pairs cultural institutions with middle schools to provide afterschool programming. Brooklyn Historical Society was proud to be a part of that pilot year, and to participate in the program’s expansion this year to our partner site at the Brooklyn Navy Yard Center at BLDG 92. They recorded their sessions on Tumblr (including a video of their final performance!) Here, Janise Mitchell, School Programs Educator at BHS & BLDG 92, reflects on the program.


 

A group of warmly dressed pre-teens stand in a group and make poses for the camera

The Teen Thursdays group hamming it up for the camera on a walking tour to historic Dry Dock #1, completed in 1851 and still in use today by GMD Shipyard.

For seven weeks this fall, middle school students from Fort Greene Preparatory Academy were selected to participate in a new Teen Thursdays program at BLDG 92, located in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Despite the close proximity to their school, few students had ever been inside the Brooklyn Navy Yard.  Once inside the gates, students were amazed at the size and scope of the area (the Navy Yard sits on 300 acres in the area formerly known as the Wallabout Bay!). You can imagine it like an urban “Secret Garden.” The students took a tour of BLDG 92’s green roof to gain insight into how BLDG 92 is a model for sustainable urban parks. They also took a closer look at the oldest continually used dry dock in the country, currently operated by GMD Ship Yard.

I was pleased to have been a part of the debut of Teen Thursdays at BLDG 92. Having been a teacher for over twenty years, I can say that one of the biggest challenges is having students make connections between books and “real life.” Our weekly sessions allowed deeper and more sustained units of investigation in a context that directly connected to students’ lives.

For example, one week we had students complete a scavenger hunt. This activity encouraged students to examine, observe and think about how Brooklyn has changed over time, using the galleries of BLDG 92 as a learning laboratory.

For their culminating activity, students focused on a pivotal time in American history: World War II.  We were fortunate to have powerful oral histories of the women and men who worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard during the War. My co-teacher Heather and I had students listen to these oral histories and then create original skits based on the characters reminiscent of the “Spoon River Anthology.”  We used material from the students’ skits and interspersed them with the original oral histories in their final performance. It was fitting that the dramatic reading took place in the World War II exhibit at BLDG 92.  The gallery exhibit contained original artifacts from the war. As students read their lines underneath the portraits of women and men who contributed to the war effort, it felt like the exhibit came to life.

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Photo of the Week: Eberhard Faber Pencil Company collection

[Boxing and Labeling Department], circa 1915, V1988.35.8; Eberhard Faber Pencil Company collection, ARC.028; Brooklyn Historical Society.

[Boxing and Labeling Department], circa 1915, V1988.35.8; Eberhard Faber Pencil Company collection, ARC.028; Brooklyn Historical Society.

The photo of the week depicts female workers around 1915 in the boxing and labeling department of the Eberhard Faber Pencil Company in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn. The company began as a U.S. subsidiary branch of A.W. Faber Company in 1849 and is the oldest pencil manufacturing company in the United States. The original office was located at 133 William Street in Manhattan. In 1861, the company opened its first U.S. pencil factory on East 42nd Street, what is now the United Nations. A fire destroyed the factory in 1872, prompting a move to the Greenpoint location (pictured above)—a pattern of movement from Manhattan to Brooklyn that many companies replicated in the late nineteenth century.

The Greenpoint factory included two square city blocks bounded by Greenpoint Avenue, West Street, Java Street, and Franklin Street. The factory remained in Greenpoint until 1956, when operations were moved to Wilkes-Barre, PA. This move follows national trends at the time when many New York City-based companies sought more space and cheaper labor outside of the urban center. In 1987, the company was sold to A. W. Faber-Castell. The original factory building still exists and is now a residential building.

This photograph is from the Eberhard Faber Pencil Company collection. This collection encompasses materials related to the Eberhard Faber Pencil Company, including product catalogues, promotional materials, photographs, and publications. Particularly noteworthy are the black-and-white photographic prints that document the Greenpoint factory, including interior photographs of workers on the job. To see more photographs from this collection, check out this gallery.

Interested in seeing more photos from BHS’s collection? Visit our online image gallery, which includes a selection of our images. Interested in seeing even more historic Brooklyn images? Visit our Brooklyn Visual Heritage website here. To search BHS’s entire collection of images, archives, maps, and special collections visit BHS’s Othmer Library Wed-Sat, 1:00-5:00 p.m. library@brooklynhistory.org

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21st Century Teens at the Brooklyn Navy Yard

Since 2012, Brooklyn Historical Society has partnered with the Brooklyn Navy Yard Center at BLDG 92 to lead “Teen Innovators at BLDG 92”, an afterschool program serving local high school students (Check out their Tumblr of their experiences). The students come from nearby high schools and in the fall, visit tenants in the Brooklyn Navy Yard and conduct research projects under the direction of BHS museum educators. In the spring, through a generous grant from the Pinkerton Foundation and the support of the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation, the Teen Innovators will be placed in paid internships in Yard businesses. Here Heather Flanagan, School Programs Educator at BHS & BLDG 92, reflects on the fall portion of the program.


A group of students gather around a presenter in front of a large, white structure

The Teen Innovators get a tour of New Lab at the Brooklyn Navy Yard

For many Brooklyn residents, the Brooklyn Navy Yard is something only glimpsed through weedy tangles.  With a view mediated by morning glories, bittersweet, and ivy, it’s easy to assume that behind those fences lies a vast acreage of abandoned and crumbling post-industrial infrastructure.

Instead, you’ll find 330 businesses and over 7,000 people making television shows and movies, solar and wind powered street lamps, steam heat, Cradle to Cradle-certified recycled glass and concrete countertops, body armor, 3D printed grow houses, and thousands of other creations.  Far from abandoned, the Brooklyn Navy Yard is defining what it means to be a sustainable industrial park and has a waiting list for prospective tenants.  And for the group of high school juniors and seniors in Brooklyn Historical Society’s Teen Innovators program, these businesses offer a chance to explore a wide range of career paths through paid internships.

Lucky for me, I got to join them!  The public’s gateway to the Brooklyn Navy Yard is the Brooklyn Navy Yard Center at BLDG 92, which houses, among other things, an employment center and galleries that tell the story of the Yard’s history of innovation.  I’ve been guiding school tours there since September, so when I was asked to assist with Teen Innovators, I was excited to explore the world within the Navy Yard’s gates alongside the teens.

A few sessions in, and I was completely blown away by the students and the sense of community they’d already established (thanks in no small part to the mentors who’d graduated the program the year before, and were back to take on a leadership role with this year’s group).  We strove to create an atmosphere where our kids felt comfortable and supported enough to enjoy taking on intimidating tasks like questioning executives about their job history or contacting professionals in their field of interest for an informational interview.

On every site visit, the students impressed owners and CEO’s with their thoughtful questions, thorough research of their respective companies, and how well they presented themselves.  The culminating project was a series of debates on World War II era issues, and I was so inspired to see the kids deliver impassioned, well-researched arguments that set the audience gasping and applauding.  I’m thrilled that the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation found a way to give each of the students a paid internship, and I can’t wait to see what all of the Teen Innovators do next!

 

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Photo of the Week: Happy New Year!

[Swerdlof Wedding], 1946, V1991.11.100.17; Harry Kalmus papers and photographs, ARC.046; Brooklyn Historical Society.

[Swerdlof Wedding], 1946, V1991.11.100.17; Harry Kalmus papers and photographs, ARC.046; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Now that the holidays are behind us, the focus has shifted to the season of glitter, champagne, and the midnight ball drop. In Brooklyn, there are hundreds of events and parties to ring in the New Year. Whether you’re prepping for a festive night on the town or a low-key evening at home, there’s so much to celebrate. All of us at Brooklyn Historical Society wish you a very happy and healthy New Year. Cheers to you!

In that festive spirit, the photo of the week depicts family and friends lifting their glasses at the Swerdlof wedding in 1946 at an unknown location in Brooklyn. This photograph comes from the Harry Kalmus papers and photographs collection. Harry Kalmus grew up in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn. After serving in World War II, he returned to Brooklyn and began a career in professional photography, particularly documenting weddings and Bar Mitzvahs.  The collection contains approximately 13,339 black-and-white negatives, 108 prints, 880 slides, 186 stereoscopic slides, and a stereoscopic viewer spanning the years 1938 to 1987. This collection includes a range of personal, documentary, event, and portrait photography that offer a unique perspective of Brooklyn in the mid-20th century. Come visit the library to view other images from this collection.

Interested in seeing more photos from BHS’s collection? Visit our online image gallery, which includes a selection of our images. Interested in seeing even more historic Brooklyn images? Visit our Brooklyn Visual Heritage website here. To search BHS’s entire collection of images, archives, maps, and special collections visit BHS’s Othmer Library Wed-Sat, 1:00-5:00 p.m. library@brooklynhistory.org

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Photo of the Week: Where’s the snow?

[Blizzard of 1888 postman], 1888, V1988.34.2; Carl H. Dahlstrom collection of Blizzard of 1888 photographs, V1988.034; Brooklyn Historical Society.

[Blizzard of 1888 postman], 1888, V1988.34.2; Carl H. Dahlstrom collection of Blizzard of 1888 photographs, V1988.034; Brooklyn Historical Society.

December is almost over, yet it hardly feels like winter has begun. Just last week, temperatures reached 60 degrees and I saw sandals and shorts on the subway. In December! According to the National Weather Service (NWS), New York City temperatures have reached record highs this month. For mid-December, the average temperature in the city was 52 degrees, which is 12.1 degrees above normal. NWS credits the October-like temperatures to the location of the Polar Vortex, which is close to the North Pole. It looks like warm weather is sticking around for a bit longer.

Personally, I love the predictability of the changing seasons in Brooklyn. While I don’t wish for a blizzard (like the one pictured above), I do yearn for a snow fall or two this winter. The photo of the week depicts a postman crossing Atlantic Avenue during the Blizzard of 1888. The blizzard occurred between March 11 and March 18, 1888 and is one of the most severe blizzards in U.S. history. The storm produced 22 inches of snow in the city, and 40 mph winds. The storm stopped all transportation in the city for days following the storm.

This photograph comes from the Carl H. Dahlstrom collection of Blizzard of 1888 photographs. This collection contains photographs taken by Dr. Levinson following the blizzard. The photographs document street scenes in the Boerum Hill and Downtown neighborhoods of Brooklyn. Come visit the library to view more photographs from this collection.

Interested in seeing more photos from BHS’s collection? Visit our online image gallery, which includes a selection of our images. Interested in seeing even more historic Brooklyn images? Visit our Brooklyn Visual Heritage website here. To search BHS’s entire collection of images, archives, maps, and special collections visit BHS’s Othmer Library Wed-Sat, 1:00-5:00 p.m. library@brooklynhistory.org

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