Voices of Brooklyn oral histories
Language of Materials
This collection includes oral histories collected through several projects undertaken by the Brooklyn Historical Society beginning in 2006. The assembled collection took shape in 2008 under the project title "Brooklyn History Makers." The ongoing oral history collection, retitled in 2016, features a broad range of narrators: jazz musicians, business leaders, civil rights activists, authors, artists, sports players, and longtime neighborhood residents who describe the changes they have observed in their neighborhoods over decades.
Oral histories were conducted for projects with a focus on a Brooklyn neighborhood, such as Park Slope, Fort Greene, Coney Island, Red Hook and Vinegar Hill, as well as for projects tied thematically to the Brooklyn Dodgers, Miss Rheingold, and sports. Other individual interviews were arranged for "Brooklyn History Makers" consideration and others were not formally assigned to any project, listing, or collection when they were conducted. Staff for this project included Sady Sullivan (Director of Oral History), Corie Trancho Robie (Interviewer), Alexis Taines Coe (Interviewer), Manissa McCleave Maharawal (Interviewer) and other interviewers. Nearly all recordings and transcripts were born-digital.
The oral history interview collection is organized into eight series based on content. Series 1: Arts and entertainment consists of recordings that focus on the narrator's production of works of art or entertainment media. Photographers, authors, and musicians are prominent.
Series 2: Business and industry includes interviews thematically linked by owning or operating workplaces. Store managers, small business owners, and restaurateurs are mainstays.
Oral histories represented in Series 3: Civic leaders pertain to narrators speaking to their outsized contribution to how New York City citizens live, work, and conduct business in the five boroughs. Developers, government officials, executives, benefactors, and board members are included.
Series 4: Community activists consists of the gathered recordings of people who have a history of or were presently supporting an underrepresented segment of society, or forming a social movement, which thereby effected broad change to a neighborhood, much of Brooklyn, or the country. The content relates directly to organized support of those harmed in natural disasters, creating cooperative business models, forming architectural preservation groups, and documenting civil rights and social justice movements.
Series 5: Our neighbors is the largest series of the collection and is likely to remain so. The interviews include people from diverse backgrounds making observations or sharing recollections about the growth and condition of several neighborhoods within Brooklyn. Brooklyn Heights, Carroll Gardens, and Fort Greene were heavily represented as of 2017.
Oral histories within Series 6: Sports and leisure pertain to narrators who proactively contributed to the athletic pursuits or relaxing diversions of Brooklyn. Professional and amateur athletes and Coney Island novelties are included.
Series 7: Veterans and wartime consists of the gathered recordings of those focusing on their time serving or time served within the country's armed forces, as well as those in support service organizations. There is also some recollection of civilian life before, during, and after mobilizations for fighting abroad. World War II, Vietnam, and the War on Terror are prominent.
Series 8: Waterfront series consists of six oral history interviews that were conducted during 2017 as a part of the research process for Brooklyn Historical Society's Waterfront exhibition. The interviews are arranged alphabetically by narrator's last name.
The Voices of Brooklyn oral histories are a combination of project-based and individual interviews assembled by oral historians and Library and Archives management of Brooklyn Historical Society. Series were formed with a basis on content in a collection audit phase by the oral history project archivist. The oral history recordings are arranged alphabetically within each series. Two interviews are accompanied by transcripts in electronic files: Shelby White in Series 3 and Albert King in Series 6.
Scope and Contents
The Voices of Brooklyn oral histories feature a broad range of narrators. Some are well-known public figures and others are well-known in their communities. This ongoing collection focuses on Brooklyn history and the experiences of these narrators document national and international history as well. The oldest narrator in this collection was born in 1910. Within the collection are several series.
Conditions Governing Access
Open to researchers with varied restrictions according to narrator agreement. Oral histories can be accessed onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online on the Oral History Portal. Administrative materials are open to researchers upon request and are accessible onsite at the Othmer Library.
Conditions Governing Use
Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of BHS. Please see the Oral History Note for guidelines on using Brooklyn Historical Society's oral history collections. For assistance, please consult library staff at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Narrator Last name, First name], Oral history interview conducted by [Interviewer First Name Last Name], [Month day, YYYY], Voices of Brooklyn oral histories, [Object ID]; Brooklyn Historical Society.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The oral histories that make up this collection were conducted by a team at Brooklyn Historical Society including an oral historian and graduate student assistants. The bulk of this work commenced in 2006 and continues at present.
Documents relating to the accessioning, exhibiting, and administrative processes are separate from the collection and are in the administrative files at Brooklyn Historical Society.
Oral History note
Oral history interviews are intimate conversations between two people, both of whom have generously agreed to share these recordings with the Brooklyn Historical Society archives and with researchers. Please listen in the spirit with which these were shared. Researchers will understand that:
1. The Brooklyn Historical Society abides by the General Principles & Best Practices for Oral History as agreed upon by the Oral History Association (2009) and expects that use of this material will be done with respect for these professional ethics.
2. Every oral history relies on the memories, views and opinions of the narrator. Because of the personal nature of oral history, listeners may find some viewpoints or language of the recorded participants to be objectionable. In keeping with its mission of preservation and unfettered access whenever possible, BHS presents these views as recorded.
3. Transcripts commissioned by a party other than BHS serve as a guide to the interview and are not considered verbatim. The audio recording should be considered the primary source for each interview. It may contain natural false starts, verbal stumbles, misspeaks, repetitions that are common in conversation, and other passages and phrases omitted from the transcript. This decision was made because BHS gives primacy to the audible voice and also because some researchers do find useful information in these verbal patterns.
4. Unless these verbal patterns are germane to your scholarly work, when quoting from this material researchers are encouraged to correct the grammar and make other modifications maintaining the flavor of the narrator's speech while editing the material for the standards of print.
About this Guide
A selection of Voices of Brooklyn oral histories were processed by Brett Dion, oral history project archivist, and Laura Juliano, oral history project volunteer, in 2017. The six oral histories that comprise series 8 were processed by Fiona Wu, archives intern, and Sophia Terry, archives intern, in 2020. Selections in each series were processed to the item level. Due to privacy concerns, the specific dates of birth of all narrators or other named individuals were redacted from the digitized transcripts and audio recordings.