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Brooklyn is not a Place, It is a People

By Bo Méndez

Posted on May 28, 2020

Teaching Ballet Class Remotely, March 2020.
Teaching Ballet Class Remotely, March 2020. Lauren Jaeger, Teaching ballet class remotely, March 30, 2020, 2020.003.222; Brooklyn Historical Society COVID-19 collection, 2020.003; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Over the past several weeks, our Photos of the Week have expressed gratitude for Brooklyn and New York’s essential workers who have been keeping the city going during the COVID-19 pandemic and resultant shelter in place circumstances. In this final installment of this series, we’re putting focus on a different facet essential to Brooklyn: Brooklynites themselves.

In a time of uncertainty, fear, and immeasurable sadness as the tolls from the pandemic continue to rise, Brooklynites have come together as a community in many ways, ranging from grassroots organizing to provide aid to their communities to individual changes to help maintain social distance and play a part in keeping ourselves and our neighbors safe.

In this image, which was added to the BHS collection through our COVID-19 collecting initiative, Windsor Terrace-based dancer and instructor Lauren Jaeger teaches a ballet class remotely via an online platform. This picture, taken during the second week of the NYS on PAUSE response, exemplifies so many of the changes Brooklynites have undergone in efforts to acclimate to these circumstances: we see furniture moved to grant Jaeger more space to demonstrate; we can glean the technological adjustments she has made to make her classes go virtual; we even notice a bit of confusion as the cat tries to understand why the humans are suddenly home so often. While the world outside has certainly changed, even our interior lives have been impacted by this event.

We also see in this image a certain resilience that our Brooklyn community has come to exemplify in the past months. As states across the country start to take more cautiously-optimistic steps toward reopening, we will need to harness this resilience on the long road to recovering from a time of mass mourning, economic stagnation, and structural injustices laid bare. While we may have grown accustomed to being physically apart over these weeks, in the coming months we will need to continue to find ways to build Brooklyn’s future by coming together.

This picture is now part of a historical record, one we hope to continue growing in order to help BHS as well as researchers, educators, storytellers, and others recount this moment in time for years to come. Have you been documenting how the pandemic impacted your life? If you have been working from home, what is your “home office” set up like? Have you been making masks, artwork, or signs for your community? Have you been journaling, or keeping a video diary? We hope that you will consider sharing these things with us through our COVID-19 collecting project to help create a more complete picture of how Brooklynites have responded to the pandemic. To learn more, visit our online submission form here.

Interested in seeing more photos from BHS’s collection? Visit our online image gallery, which includes a selection of our images. We look forward to inviting you back to BHS in the future to research in our entire collection of images, archives, maps, and special collections. In the meantime, you can use our Remote Research Guide to get started. Our reference staff are still available to help with your research! You can reach us at [email protected].

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