Photo of the Week: Urban Archive

[Stanley’s Lunch], 1958, v1974.4.914; John D. Morrell photographs, ARC.005; Brooklyn Historical Society.

[Stanley’s Lunch], 1958, v1974.4.914; John D. Morrell photographs, ARC.005; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Brooklyn Historical Society’s collections include more than 30,000 photographs—7,500 of which can be searched in our online image gallery. You can also view BHS’s photographic collections in a few other locations online: the Digital Public Library of America is a rich resource of over 18,000,000 materials gathered from institutions throughout the country; and the newly released Urban Archive app is a location-based mobile app that brings together digital collections from New York City museums, archives and libraries. Brooklyn Historical Society has contributed over 5,000 images (and counting!) from our collections to these resources.

The Urban Archive app is particularly notable because of its New York City focus. It allows you to access nearby historical content, walking tours, and curated collections throughout the five boroughs of New York City, as well as interpret the images in new ways. For example, the photo of the week by photographer John. D. Morrell depicts 5-7 Front Street in the Dumbo neighborhood of Brooklyn around 1958.  John D. Morrell was a former Long Island Historical Society (now Brooklyn Historical Society) librarian who donated thousands of photographs that he took while walking through Brooklyn neighborhoods. Since the collections are geo-tagged in the Urban Archive app, you can see some of Morrell’s walking patterns that show where he took photographs and the Brooklyn neighborhoods he frequented.

You can also learn interesting facts about the buildings depicted in the photographs. For instance, you can learn how 5 Front Street (seen here) is one of the oldest surviving office buildings in New York City. Long Island Insurance Company moved here in 1834.  We hope you will check out the Urban Archive app to explore Brooklyn history in a new way!

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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Brooklyn Historical Society (BHS) Launches website, The Packer Collegiate Institute: A Story of Education in Brooklyn

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In 1845, a group of Brooklynites formed a committee to establish a school for “Female Education.” This group established a board of trustees, raised money to build the school and it opened as The Brooklyn Female Academy on Joralemon Street in the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn with increasing success year after year.  A fire nearly destroyed the school’s future in 1853, but Harriet Putnam Packer offered the funds to rebuild. The school was designed by Minard LaFever (also known for St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church) and reopened as The Packer Collegiate Institute in 1854. The school was known to provide a distinguished education to young women in Brooklyn and beyond throughout the 19th and 20th centuries and became coeducational in 1972.

A new website, The Packer Collegiate Institute: A Story of Education in Brooklyn tells the rich and sundry stories of Packer’s educational development in the context of Brooklyn’s commercial and social development. The site culminates a project to preserve, process, and make accessible the institutional archive of The Packer Collegiate Institute with funding from the Leon Levy Foundation and The Packer Collegiate Institute with three main components: the school’s history told through narrative essays, digitized collection items visible in the gallery, and student research papers in video and essay format that reflect the rich topics found within the collection.

The Packer Collegiate Institute records (2014.019)
Over the past two years, processing archivist, John Zarrillo and archival assistants, prepared and transferred the collection to climate-controlled storage, completed some necessary conservation/preservation work, and selected initial collections/items to digitize. John published the extensive finding aid to New York University’s finding aid portal to assist researchers in discovering the collection. The records contain administrative records related to finances, the campus’s architecture, Board of Trustees minutes, student publications, photographs, audiovisual media, and event ephemera dating from about 1780 to as recently as 2016. In addition to the finding aid, the documents highlighted throughout the website are accessible via the Gallery. Multi-page documents and photographs are viewable alongside detailed catalog information including descriptions, dates, authors, and subjects.

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The Story of Packer

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Once the collection was fully processed, a digital curator, Teresa Iacobelli, spent hours researching The Packer Collegiate Institute records at Brooklyn Historical Society. Her research flows together in a narrative history accessible in digestible, but content-rich chapters. She follows the school’s beginnings in 1845 offering education to young women beyond grade school, through a fire in 1853 that nearly destroyed its ambitious beginnings, and the transformation into a coeducational institution.  The narrative reveals Packer’s participation in society throughout wars and Brooklyn’s unflagging urban development. A major component of Packer’s history is how the curriculum changed to reflect American values, customs, and perceptions on the importance of education for both men and women in an evolving world.

“The story of PCI is more than the story of a school. It is one of social and economic transformation in Brooklyn and the United States. It is the story of the development of urban growth and institution-building, of the evolving status of American women, and of the changing beliefs about the nature of education and its role in American society.” – The Story of Packer (http://brooklynhistory.org/library/packer/story/introduction/)

Packer Students in the Archives

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As soon as the collection became available to researchers, Dr. Sarah Strauss, History Faculty at The Packer Collegiate Institute, immediately made use of it.  She developed an advanced topics history course called Making History.  The course enables students to conduct original research to gain insight into history by using the materials held in the Packer Collegiate Institute records (2014.019) housed at Brooklyn Historical Society’s Othmer Library. Students visit the Othmer Library much like any other researchers, but with special assistance from Reference Librarian Cecily Dyer and supervision from Dr. Strauss.  Throughout the semester, students learn about care and handling of rare documents, take photographs of relevant materials, record citations, and develop their skills as historians. The students’ focused research is delivered in two forms: first, in the composition of a scholarly essay; and second, in a public presentation at a scholarly symposium held at the end of the academic year. The Packer Collegiate Institute: A Story of Education in Brooklyn website features the first year’s student presentations and this year’s student essays. The Student Projects section of the site will grow with each Making History class that delves into Packer’s history using the archival collection.

“Last year I took Packer’s new Advanced Topics class in archival research, where we were given access to hundreds of boxes of the school’s historical primary sources. It was a really unique experience to be a high school student doing such intense research—being trusted to handle important documents and artifacts, some of which dated back to the 1800s. It was both exciting and somewhat nerve-racking to delve into those initial boxes…Stepping into the BHS library, and settling down with a box, I immediately felt like I was traveling back in time. Being able to spend so much focused time with just a handful of archives was a very intimate experience. For my research project, I looked at some of Packer’s curriculum catalogues from the 1950s and ‘60s, along with editorials from Packer’s student publications from the ‘60s and ‘70s on issues pertaining to feminism and freedom of expression. After just a few visits to the library, I felt like I really knew the girls whose writing I had been picking apart and analyzing, and that’s what made the research, as difficult as it was at times, that much more interesting and exciting to conduct.”
Testimonial from Delilah Righter, Class of 2017

Teen Council
In addition to the Packer Making History course, BHS’s Teen Council also benefitted from access to the Packer records. The program welcomes 15 – 20 high school students from various local high schools to research and interpret an element of Brooklyn history. Inspired by the Women’s Marches and the importance of education for their generation, the 2017 Brooklyn Historical Society Teen Council created an exhibition called Wise Eyes: Still Woke about Brooklyn women, past and present, who’ve been active catalysts for education and empowerment. They selected two Packer alumnae to feature directly in the exhibition. Mary Ingraham Bunting Smith (1910 – 1998) was an advocate and leader for women in higher education and the sciences in the second half of the twentieth century. Lucy Burns (1978 – 1966) was a leader in the movement for woman suffrage and co-founder of the National Woman’s Party. Burns and Bunting Smith share the space with three other Brooklynites: Elsie Richardson, Esther Cooper Jackson, and Debbie Almontaser. The exhibition runs through May 15, 2018 on BHS’s 2nd floor, appropriately located just beyond the Othmer Library entrance.

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Not only does the website tell the story of The Packer Collegiate Institute, but it represents the second BHS website to use a new method of providing digital access to its collections. Similar to BHS’s Oral History Portal, the site is built on WordPress, and uses custom plugins that make it easy to add content with rich metadata descriptions. Integrating this metadata with the school’s rich historical narrative, the site offers a click-through to rich and descriptive cataloging information in the website’s Gallery. This integrated approach to building digital platforms, led by Brooklyn Historical Society’s Managing Director of Library & Archives Julie I. May, can serve as a model for other similarly sized and resourced repositories seeking to make oral histories, photographs, artifacts, and fine collections digitally accessible. Toward that end, BHS has made the custom plugins open source and freely available on GitHub.

Visit The Packer Collegiate Institute: A Story of Education in Brooklyn at brooklynhistory.org/packer

 

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Photo of the Week: BLDG 77

[Building 77], 1948, v1973.6.365; Brooklyn photograph and illustration collection, ARC.202; Brooklyn Historical Society.

[Building 77], 1948, v1973.6.365; Brooklyn photograph and illustration collection, ARC.202; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Brooklyn Historical Society and Brooklyn Navy Yard have a thriving partnership leading student, teacher, and after school programs at BLDG 92 in Social Studies and STEM topics, including labor and industry, sustainability, and innovation. Since 2001, the BNY has undergone major upgrades, expansion and growth that has yielded significant growth in employment and industry. Part of that expansion is the opening of the newly remodeled BLDG 77 on November 9.

The original building, seen here in 1948, is an enormous, 16-story concrete building with no windows on the first 11 floors. It was constructed within 5 months in 1941 with the intention to be administrative offices and a major storehouse for the yard. The size of the building created some challenges because of the soft soil below and pilings had to be built 150 below ground in order to support the size and weight of the building. The new building (a rendering can be seen here) will be used as retail and commercial space with the goal of bringing 10,000 jobs to the Navy Yard by 2020.

This photograph comes from the Brooklyn photograph and illustration collection comprised of approximately 7,000 items from the early to mid-20th century. The collection provides a comprehensive visual documentation of the borough of Brooklyn with images of neighborhoods, homes, buildings, the waterfront, and infrastructure. 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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Flatbush + Main Episode 19: The Brooklyn Theatre Fire

In Episode 19 of Brooklyn Historical Society’s podcast Flatbush + Main, co-hosts Zaheer Ali and Julie Golia examine an important but long-forgotten tragedy in Brooklyn’s past: the Brooklyn Theatre Fire of 1876, and discuss the Gilded Age, municipal reform, class relations, the culture of leisure, and the politics of memory in the 19th century – and today.

Index

02:31 – Histories and Ideas
23:03 – Into the Archives
44:50 – Voices of Brooklyn

For complete show notes, go to brooklynhistory.org/flatbush-main.

We hope you’re enjoying our podcast! Please subscribe, rate, and review us at brooklynhistory.org/fm-itunes. And share the news of Flatbush + Main far and wide using the hashtag #FlatbushandMain.

Segment 1: Histories and Ideas

In segment 1, Zaheer and Julie tell the story of the Brooklyn Theatre Fire, the deadliest fire in the country when it occurred in December 1876. They situate the event in the context of late 19th-century Brooklyn and America, and tackle the question of why some disasters become embedded in American memory, while others are forgotten.

Segment 2: Into the Archives

Julie and Zaheer dive into the aftermath of the Brooklyn Theatre Fire by looking at a rich manuscript collection from BHS’s archives. The Brooklyn Theatre Fire Relief Association was formed a few weeks after the fire, and ultimately gave out about $50,000 of private aid to the families of the 280+ victims of the fire. The collection gives a glimpse into the politics of philanthropy and reform in late 19th-century urban life.

Explore the finding aid of the Brooklyn Theatre Fire Relief Association records (1977.049) here.

Here are some image from the collection:
Children of Brown colored

Dirty tenement, neighbors speak well of them

Poor but striving family

Historian Joshua Britton has researched and written about the Brooklyn Theatre Fire and its aftermath, and his writing helped inform our analysis of the collection. Read his work here.

Segment 3: Voices of Brooklyn

Zaheer and Julie listen to the experiences of Barbara Norris. Norris was a nurse working at Woodhull Hospital in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, where she worked at the AIDS clinic during the 1980s and 1990s. In her interview, she speaks at length about the impact of HIV/AIDS on the people of Brooklyn and on her and others in her profession. The interview is from the AIDS/Brooklyn Oral History Project collection (1993), which documented the impact of the AIDS epidemic on Brooklyn communities.

You can listen to the full interview on BHS’s Oral History Portal here.

Segment 4: Endorsements

Zaheer endorsed Julie’s on-going series celebrating the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in New York State. In the series of conversations, Julie sits down with leading scholars and activists to consider the histories and legacies of women and the vote. Part 2 on Monday, November 6, includes Christine Quinn and A’Shanti F. Gholar. Get tickets here. And part 3 on Wednesday, November 8, presents Joan Malin, Allison K. Lange, and Jamia Wilson. Get tickets here.

Julie endorsed “Elite Northern Colleges and Their Ties to Slavery,” a public program at BHS’s Pierrepont location on Thursday, November 30, at 6:30pm. Historians Eric Foner, Martha Sandweiss, and Craig Wilder examine the importance of slavery to the foundations of America’s most prestigious colleges and universities. $10 general admission ($5 for members). Purchase tickets here.

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Photo of the Week: Dodgers

The Last Night at Ebbets Field, 1957, 2011.007, Schaefer Brewing Company scrapbook on Ebbets Field, 2011.007; Brooklyn Historical Society.

The Last Night at Ebbets Field, 1957, 2011.007, Schaefer Brewing Company scrapbook on Ebbets Field, 2011.007; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Tonight is Game Seven of the 2017 World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros. The Dodgers have appeared in 19 World Series—9 in Brooklyn and 10 in Los Angeles. In 1957, fueled by financial and political circumstances, the Dodgers’ team owners made a controversial decision to leave Brooklyn for Los Angeles. The photo of the week depicts three Dodgers pitchers (Johnny Podres, Carl Erskine, and Sandy Koufax) during the final night at Ebbets Field on September 24, 1957.

This photograph comes from the Schaefer Brewing Company scrapbook on Ebbets Field containing 20 photographs of players, fans, press, and Dodgers staff at the last game at Ebbets Field. The scrapbook was assembled by the Shaefer Brewing Company. If you’re interested in learning more about Dodgers history, be sure to check the Guide to Brooklyn Dodgers Archival Material at Othmer Library and our current exhibition at BHS Pierrepont, Until Everyone Has It Made: Jackie Robinson’s Legacy. The exhibition traces Jackie Robinson’s legacy in sports and civil rights activism. It features an array of archival materials, photography, programs and memorabilia—including the 1955 Dodgers World Series championship banner! Don’t miss it!

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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