The Brooklyn Historical Society’s online oral history portal, which documents the histories of Brooklyn’s diverse ethnic and cultural communities, was recognized with a 2017 Innovation in Collection Access Award

The Brooklyn Historical Society
Photo: Courtesy Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce

The Brooklyn Historical Society (BHS) has been recognized by the Museum Association of New York (MANY) with a 2017 Innovation in Collection Access Award for its online oral history portal; the award honors exemplary projects that broaden access, preserve and catalog museum and heritage organization collections.

The AIDS/Brooklyn Oral History Project is one of 18 oral history projects currently available on the online platform. Photo credit: Brooklyn Historical Society

“The Award of Merit Selection Committee considered the ways nominees demonstrated organizational growth, reached new audiences, applied museum standards and best practices, and how the project enhanced the organization’s mission,” said Erika Sanger, MANY’s executive director. “The Brooklyn Historical Society’s oral history portal was unanimously selected for an award in this highly competitive category.”

BHS first launched the online portal, that makes its collection of oral histories accessible to historians, archivists, researchers and the public, in April 2017. Since then, the website has become home to 300 interviews documenting the histories of Brooklyn’s diverse ethnic and cultural communities. The interviews date back to 1973, with narrators born as early as 1880.

Highlights from the collection include the Puerto Rican Oral History Project; a social, cultural and political history of Crown Heights; interviews with founders, workers and activists involved with the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation; and the AIDS/Brooklyn Oral History Project. As more oral histories are digitized, and new public history projects such as Muslims in Brooklyn yield yet more interviews, the online repository will continue to grow.

Voices of Brooklyn: Arts and Entertainment is also part of BHS’s extensive collection of historic interviews, available on the online platform. Photo credit: Brooklyn Historical Society

“We are enormously proud of the work our oral historians do to preserve and tell the stories of Brooklynites. In addition to the importance of housing these collections, it is our duty to make them easily accessible to current researchers, and generations of scholars to come,” said BHS President Deborah Schwartz.” We hope the innovation of this portal will inspire future projects that focused on the accessibility of museum collections.”

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Andrea Leonhardt

“Made in Germany,” Andrea Leonhardt is the managing editor for BK Reader. Andrea holds a bachelor’s degree in political science, with minors in American studies and education, and a master’s...

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