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Brooklyn Navy Yard oral history collection

Call Number



1986-2010, inclusive
; 2006-2010, bulk


Sullivan, Sady
Egan, Jennifer
Romano, Daniella
Filene, Benjamin
Esses, Diane
Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation


2 Linear Feet in 6 boxes.
7.49 Gigabytes in 94 files; Running time (of describe records): 77 hours, 3 minutes, and 53 seconds.

Language of Materials

English .


This collection includes oral histories conducted by the Brooklyn Historical Society from 1986 to 1989 as well as oral histories conducted in partnership with the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation and Brooklyn Historical Society from 2006 to 2010. The interviews were conducted with men and women who worked in or around the Brooklyn Navy Yard and the majority of the interviews are with people who worked in the Yard during World War II. During the interviews, the narrators discuss their lives before working at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, their work at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, their relationships with others in the Yard, and transportation to and from work. While most of the interviews focus on work experiences in and around the Yard, some of the narrators describe gender, racial, and ethnic relations at the Yard and at various neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Many narrators also describe their lives after the Navy Yard.

Historical Note

The origins of the Brooklyn Navy Yard (officially known as the New York Naval Shipyard) date back to 1801, when the United States Navy acquired what had previously been a small, privately owned shipyard in order to construct naval vessels. By the time the Department of Defense ceased shipbuilding activities at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1966, eighty-eight vessels had been manufactured at the facility. In 1967, the Brooklyn Navy Yard was acquired by the City of New York and was converted for private commercial use.

The oral history interviews in the collection come from two different collecting efforts one from 1986 to 1989 and another from 2006 to 2010. The interviews dating from 1986 to 1989 were the result of an effort to collect oral histories of Brooklyn residents associated with the Brooklyn Navy Yard and people who lived or worked in Brooklyn prior to the Shellens Gallery of Brooklyn History installation. The effort from 2006 to 2010 was part of the Brooklyn Navy Yard oral history project, a grant funded partnership between Brooklyn Historical Society and the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation. The goal of the project was to capture the voices of the people who worked at the Yard during World War II and document the evolution of women joining the labor force during the War.


This collection is arranged alphabetically by narrator's last name.

Scope and Contents

The Brooklyn Navy Yard oral history collection is comprised of over fifty oral history interviews with men and women who worked in or around the Brooklyn Navy Yard, primarily during World War II. The assembled oral histories in this collection date from 1986 to 2010.

In the interviews, narrators discuss growing up, their work at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, their relationships with others at the Yard, gender relations at the Yard, and transportation to and from work. Many narrators bring up issues of ethnicity, race, and religion at the Yard or in their neighborhoods. Several people describe the launching of the USS Missouri battleship and recall in detail their daily tasks at the Yard. Many of the narrators worked as welders, riveters, office workers, mechanics, electricians, and ship fitters. While the interviews focus primarily on experiences in and around the Yard, many narrators go on to discuss their lives after the Navy Yard, relating stories about their careers, dating and marriage, children, social activities, living conditions and the changes that took place in and around Brooklyn during their lifetimes.

Conditions Governing Access

Open to researchers with varied restrictions according to narrator agreement. Many oral histories can be accessed onsite at Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online at the Oral History Portal.

Conditions Governing Use

Use of these oral histories for purposes other than private study, scholarship, or research requires the permission of Brooklyn Historical Society. Please see the Oral History Note for guidelines on using Brooklyn Historyical Society's oral history collections. For assistance, please contact Brooklyn Historical Society at

Preferred Citation

[Narrator Last Name, Narrator First Name], Oral history interview conducted by [Interviewer First Name Last Name], [Month DD, YYYY], Brooklyn Navy Yard Oral History Collection, [Object ID]; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

These oral histories were conducted by Brooklyn Historical Society and Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation staff or consultants over the phone, at Brooklyn Historical Society, and at narrators' homes and businesses from 1986 to 1989 and 2006 to 2010.

Related Materials

In addition to this collection, Brooklyn Historical Society has other collections with materials related to some of the narrators who appear in the Brooklyn Navy Yard oral history collection. Among these are:

• The Alfred and Lucille Kolkin papers, 1942-1965, ARC.048

• Veronica Kieffer Brooklyn Navy Yard photograph and badge, 1944-1945, V1988.047

• Frank J. Trezza Seatrain Shipbuilding collection, 1861-2011, 1988.016

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 created prior to 2008 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.

Collection processed by

Amy Lau, Mary Mann, Aliki Caloyeras, and Margaret Fraser

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2023-08-21 11:18:10 +0000.
Using Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language: Finding aid written in English

Processing Information

This collection was initially cataloged at the item level by Margaret Fraser, Oral History Intern, in 2010.

The collection was processed by Amy Lau, Archivist, Mary Mann, Project Archivist, and Aliki Caloyeras, Project Archvist, in 2020. Interviews were processed to the item level and catalogued records were updated by Lau and Mann after processing. Due to privacy concerns, the specific birthdates and home addresses of all narrators or other named individuals were redacted from transcripts and audio recordings. Interviews were cataloged using Library of Congress subject headings.


Brooklyn Historical Society


Box: 1 (Material Type: Mixed Materials)
Box: 2 (Material Type: Mixed Materials)
Box: 3 (Material Type: Mixed Materials)
Box: 4 (Material Type: Mixed Materials)
Box: 5 (Material Type: Mixed Materials)
Box: 6 (Material Type: Mixed Materials)
Box: BHS Oral History Box 5 (Material Type: Audio)
Center for Brooklyn History
128 Pierrepont Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201