Photo of the Week: Kindergarten class at Fort Greene Park

[Kindergarten class at Fort Greene Park], circa 1910, V1981.284.32, Emmanuel House lantern slide collection, v1981.284; Brooklyn Historical Society.

[Kindergarten class at Fort Greene Park], circa 1910, V1981.284.32, Emmanuel House lantern slide collection, v1981.284; Brooklyn Historical Society.

No matter the decade or time period, it sure is challenging to keep kindergarteners still for a group photograph! The photo of the week depicts a kindergarten class in Fort Greene Park around 1910. I love how every kid has a different expression on their face and no one seems interested in the photograph.

This photograph was exposed on a glass plate negative. There are two types of glass plate negatives: collodion wet plate negative and the gelatin dry plate. Both techniques require a light-sensitive emulsion that is spread and fixed onto a glass plate. This method required a relatively long exposure—anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. Imagine keeping a group of 5 year olds still for that long! See if you can spot some motion blur in this photograph due to movement that occurred during the exposure.

This photograph comes from the Emmanuel House lantern slide collection comprised of 87 slides dating from 1900 to 1914 that show children and activities of the Emmanuel House, a civic center and place of outreach run by the Young Men’s League of the Emmanuel Baptist Church, located at 131 Steuben Street in the Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn. The majority of the photographs in this collection are group portraits of the clubs’ classes and recreational activities such as Kindergarten, Sunday school, sewing school, scouts, and baseball teams. To view 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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Photo of the Week: Eugene L. Armbruster photographs and scrapbooks

[Portrait of man posing on a boardwalk in Coney Island], 1898, v1974.022.4.068, Eugene L. Armbruster photographs and scrapbooks, ARC.199; Brooklyn Historical Society.

[Portrait of man posing on a boardwalk in Coney Island], 1898, v1974.022.4.068, Eugene L. Armbruster photographs and scrapbooks, ARC.199; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Did you catch the Tales from the Vault program at BHS Pierrepont on Monday? If not, we have some exciting project news to share. In 2015, BHS received a generous grant from Gerry Charitable Trust to digitize and catalog seven scrapbooks from the Eugene L. Armbruster photographs and scrapbooks collection. We are pleased to announce that the scrapbook pages are now available online.

Armbruster was an amateur photographer and NYC historian during the early 20th century.  He was particularly interested in infrastructure and preserving history that he viewed as vanishing during a period of rapid growth and change in Brooklyn. In his book, The Eastern District of Brooklyn (1912), he writes, “If a history of the City of New York will ever be written, its compiler will look around for historical matter relating to the old towns, now forming parts of the metropolis, and this book was written that the Eastern District of Brooklyn may be represented then.”

The scrapbooks are organized by subject and include newspaper clippings, photographs, hand-drawn maps, drawings, and writings. The scrapbooks primarily feature Brooklyn, but also showcase Manhattan, Queens, Nassau County and Suffolk County. They are a particularly rich resource for housing research.

The photo of the week depicts a man posing on the boardwalk in Coney Island around 1898. There are two full albums dedicated to Coney Island. Check out all of the digitized scrapbook pages here.

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: Tennis

[Dr. Wade and his cousin Dr. L. N. Anderson in Prospect Park], circa 1881, v1974.11.12, Anderson and Nostrand families papers and photographs, ARC.199; Brooklyn Historical Society.

[Dr. Wade and his cousin Dr. L. N. Anderson in Prospect Park], circa 1881, v1974.11.12, Anderson and Nostrand families papers and photographs, ARC.199; Brooklyn Historical Society.

The 2017 United States Open is underway, bringing some of the best tennis players in the world to New York City. This year marks 20 years at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens. You can learn more about the US Open and get tickets here.

The photo of the week depicts Dr. Wade and his cousin, Dr. L.N. Anderson, and two unidentified women, posing with tennis rackets in Prospect Park around 1881.  This photographs comes from the Anderson and Nostrand families papers and photographs collection comprised of papers and photographs from 1844 to 1914 that documents three generations of Nostrand and Anderson families. This collection is not digitized, but we encourage you to visit the Othmer Library during public research hours to see it in person.

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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Coney Island: America’s Playground

Brooklyn Historical Society has partnered with over a dozen Brooklyn schools in the past decade to implement Cultural Afterschool Adventures (CASA) programs in partnership with NYC Council Members. In the Young Scholars program, our educators meet with a group of upper elementary school students over the course of the spring semester, culminating in the creation of a book on a pre-selected theme. These books are then distributed to students, their families, and their schools. A copy of the student work is added to the Othmer Library & Archives, memorializing the student work for generations to come. If you’re interested in viewing the book discussed below, you can visit the Othmer Library during its public hours.

Here, Program Educator Janise Mitchell reflects on the process:

The PS 312 Young Scholars.

The PS 312 Young Scholars.

What happens when you have a group of fifteen 5th-graders who are simply passionate about history? What happens when your students have nicknames such as “Mr. History,” “Best Interpreter of Primary Sources,” or “Ms. Sassy”?  You get the privilege of being an educator for the Young Scholars program led by Brooklyn Historical Society.

As an educator at Brooklyn Historical Society, I had the privilege of working with an amazing group of students. As a former Social Studies teacher, I was delighted to be the lead educator at PS 312, located in the Bergen Beach neighborhood. I thought this would be a natural bridge to help share my passion for history with students.

I was fortunate that this would be my second year working with the students of PS 312. During my first year, the students’ level of historical sophistication left me in awe. They were very comfortable with using primary sources and doing historical research. So I knew that this year, I definitely needed to bring my “A-game!”

At work on history.

At work on history.

For the initial sessions, I wanted my students to understand how historians think. We worked on developing historical thinking skills such as sourcing, corroboration, contextualization, and close reading of primary sources. The level of commitment was wonderful. Each week we poured over documents from the archives of Brooklyn Historical Society, as well as the Brooklyn and New York Public Libraries.

The PS 312 Young Scholars focused on the development of Coney Island. For such a broad topic, the challenge was to narrow down the focus. We started our research by viewing the Ken Burns documentary “Coney Island.”  We examined Coney Island’s history from its development to its decline and later resurgence. We did comparisons of leisure-time activities from the past and today. Finally, we focused on how we look at Coney Island through the lens of social change.

As we began our investigation, students were fascinated by how entrepreneurs developed Coney Island into the most famous amusement park in twentieth century America. Students were divided into groups and studied the development of the three major amusement parks: Luna Park, Steeplechase, and Dreamland. Students asked, “What made each park unique?”“What led to their decline?” and “What is Coney Island like today?”

PS 312 Young Scholars work during an afternoon session in Spring 2017.

PS 312 Young Scholars work during an afternoon session in Spring 2017.

Students discovered that, although each park differed in its target audience, Coney Island was much more than amazing rides. Each park was universal in its ability to bring masses of diverse groups together. Students were especially captivated by the dance craze of the day: the cakewalk or cake dance. We decided to view footage of dancers performing the cake walk at Coney Island. After further research, students discovered that the origins of the dance was created by enslaved people on Southern plantations. The results were illuminating; students developed a thesis that dances formerly performed by enslaved people eventually became part of popular culture.

For our final session, we were thrilled to take a guided walking tour of Coney Island. On our walk, we gained deeper insights that research done in the classroom couldn’t do. One student, while facing the Atlantic Ocean, commented, “Imagine immigrants seeing the lights of Coney Island for the first time.” Connections were made. Students were intrigued by the transition of the side-show acts from dehumanizing people with disabilities to performers today who control the rights of displaying their bodies.

"Coney Island: America's Playground" can be viewed by visiting the Othmer Library during public hours.

“Coney Island: America’s Playground” can be viewed by visiting the Othmer Library during public hours.

It was rewarding to watch students constantly question and develop theories about the past. For these young scholars, they learned more than just the “how” of doing historical research. They learned life skills, decision-making, prioritizing, and collaboration.  For myself, I always ended each session with this question, “Are you having fun?”  The resounding chorus of “Yes!” provided validity of student engagement.

Janise Mitchell
Brooklyn Historical Society
PS 312 Young Scholars Program Educator

If you’d like to bring the Young Scholars program to your school in Brooklyn, e-mail us at education@brooklynhistory.org with “Young Scholars” in the subject line.

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Park Slope: Recollections of Change

Brooklyn Historical Society has partnered with over a dozen Brooklyn schools in the past decade to implement Cultural Afterschool Adventures (CASA) programs in partnership with NYC Council Members. In the Young Scholars program, our educators meet with a group of upper elementary school students over the course of the spring semester, culminating in the creation of a book on a pre-selected theme. These books are then distributed to students, their families, and their schools. A copy of the student work is added to the Othmer Library & Archives, memorializing the student work for generations to come. If you’re interested in viewing the book discussed below, you can visit the Othmer Library during its public hours.

Here, Program Educator Elena Ketelsen reflects on the process:

The PS 282 Young Scholars visiting BHS's Othmer Library on a research trip.

The PS 282 Young Scholars visiting BHS’s Othmer Library on a research trip.

In exploring the history of Park Slope with the Young Scholars of PS 282, I wanted the research I conducted to be responsive to the students’ interests. My goals were to consider what the history of a neighborhood can teach us about our present and to ask critical questions about what we observed. As I began the program and met the students, I soon realized this extraordinary group was already invested in the program and that they were incredibly eager to focus their wonderings and dig into their neighborhood’s history. Almost immediately, we began the process of collecting questions, organizing our thoughts into themes, and having rich conversations about what we found and how it impacts us today. Aside from the academic piece of the program, we also developed a learning community in which the students cared for each other and collaborated in order to improve their work. By devoting time each session to sharing writing and hearing feedback, the students strengthened their writing and gained confidence in expressing their thoughts.

In considering the importance of history, Sydnie shared that, “History is studying different time periods to teach us about their impact on us.” Other students shared similar thoughts and expressed their interest in exploring the then and the now. We considered what important buildings were in the neighborhood and how their purpose may have changed as Park Slope grew. I went into Brooklyn Historical Society’s archives to find images of buildings such as the Ansonia Clock Factory, The Montauk Club, and the Charles Higgins Ink Factory. Alongside these images, I found a wide array of primary source documents, including letters, certificates, and photographs.

PS 282 Young Scholars examining a primary source in the Othmer Library.

PS 282 Young Scholars examining a primary source in the Othmer Library.

With each new source I dug up, we looked at the images together and the students came up with questions to guide their writing. When looking at pictures of Charles Higgins, the students recorded questions such as, “Was he kind to his workers?” “Did he have an American background?” “Was Charles Higgins related to royalty or did he work hard?” Students clearly wanted to know about the character of the people who shaped Park Slope, which made me work hard to find documents that spoke to these questions. In response to their questions, I would then dig deeper to find sources from which to deduce the answers to those questions. By finding a certificate of appreciation from Charles Higgins’ workers, students were able to conclude that he was in fact a kind factory owner, citing “all 49 workers had signed the document, so he must have been kind.” By engaging in this continuous process of using images to ask initial questions, then finding more images and readings to answer these questions, we were able to slowly piece together a history of these buildings and the characters that inhabited them.

Another important part of our exploration was simply taking in the sights of the neighborhood. We went on neighborhood walks to observe the architecture and to sketch the wonderful details of the buildings. This group was very artistic and interested in design, so we even did a little architectural history, learning terms such as “Neo-Grecian” and “Venetian Gothic.” As we walked through the neighborhood, students observed brownstones and debated the materials – was it terracotta, limestone, or a mixture? They asked, “What style is this church?” “What inspired the towers?” and we took time to sit and draw our observations. When visiting The Montauk Club, students took an interest in deciphering the friezes and debating the architectural style. After our walks, students reported they were newly interested in the architectural history of the neighborhood as well as stories of the people who once inhabited these buildings.

You can view the Young Scholars of PS 282's book by visiting the Othmer Library during public hours.

You can view the Young Scholars of PS 282’s book by visiting the Othmer Library during public hours.

Throughout the project, I kept returning to the archives to find more information, until I finally had to force myself to stop.  Their questions were never-ending and we found we had only begun to scrape the surface of the history of Park Slope. Upon completing the book, we did not feel we were finished with the history—we had only presented a small piece of the puzzle. I look forward to hearing more from the students as they continue in their own explorations of the neighborhood, as they continue to wonder about the then and the now.

Elena Ketelsen
Brooklyn Historical Society
PS 282 Young Scholars Program Educator

If you’d like to bring the Young Scholars program to your school in Brooklyn, e-mail us at education@brooklynhistory.org with “Young Scholars” in the subject line.

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