Documenting Sandy, From the Director of Library & Archives

I moved back to Brooklyn in April to join the staff of the Brooklyn Historical Society as the Director of Library and Archives. Over the last few months, I have met many people with a stake in Brooklyn and the work that Brooklyn Historical Society does for the borough, supporters who have asked me a lot of insightful questions about our plans for the Othmer Library. In the last few weeks, the question of what we do as a library and archives has taken on an added urgency.

One of the essential jobs of libraries, archives, and museums is to help communities remember, and disasters are important points of remembrance. They shape our individual lives, our communities, and our public policy. Brooklyn Historical Society is committed to documenting the ways that Brooklyn prepared for Sandy and weathered the storm, and to document the whole course of the recovery.

Creating good documentation is a long, patient process, however, and it does not compete with the urgent needs that people have to confront in the aftermath of a natural disaster. Everyone here is keenly aware of the impact that Sandy has had on Brooklyn and surrounding areas and our first hope is that recovery services have been reaching you and life is getting back to normal. So, right now, I just want to encourage you to keep recording information, knowing that Brooklyn Historical Society is listening, and that we will help make sure the whole story is collected for the Library and Archives and investigated through our research, exhibits, and programs.

In the days immediately after Sandy touched down, the team at Brooklyn Historical Society gathered to discuss what we should do over the next few days. Our building and collections were safe, so we decided that it was best to close for the remainder of the week and give our staff the time to tend to their families and communities.

As we came back into the offices last week, despite that Nor’easter, I was proud of the work that people on the BHS staff had done to help with recovery and I was impressed by their sensitivity to the needs of their own communities, the borough of Brooklyn, and the rest of New York and its surrounding areas. Brooklyn has come out in force to help this recovery, through projects like Occupy Sandy and Red Hook Recovers, through donations and volunteerism, and through the work that many Brooklyn residents do as first responders and in city services.

There is a more to do. Brooklyn will recover and reinvent itself once again in the months ahead, and I think it is important for Brooklyn Historical Society to keep with this story. You can see the beginnings of our efforts online, at our Storify page and on our blog. Please take a moment to point us to the important stories, the great photographs, and the wonderful people and organizations that have made a difference for you. Post a comment here or through our Facebook page, tweet @brooklynhistory, or email library@brooklynhistory.org. Let us know about your experiences.

I look forward to working with you in the months ahead to collect the artifacts and information that will place Sandy in the historical record, and I hope that I’ll see you in the Library soon.

 

This image from the NASA/NOAA Suomi NPP satellite’s VIIRS instrument shows Hurricane Sandy strengthening in the Gulf Stream as it makes its way to landfall in New Jersey. The image shown here was taken during the satellite pass around 1735Z on October 29, 2012.

About Jacob Nadal

Jacob Nadal served as Director Library and Archives for the Brooklyn Historical Society from 2012-2014. Prior to this, Jake has worked on collection management, preservation and conservation, and digital library projects in a variety of different settings, from major research libraries to post-conflict archives in Liberia. He served as the Preservation Officer for UCLA Library, Preservation Field Service Librarian and Acting Head of Collections Care for The New York Public Library, and as Head of the E. Lingle Craig Preservation Laboratory at Indiana University, Bloomington. He teaches in graduate programs in library and information science and leads professional workshops with numerous state and local cultural heritage groups. He received a Masters degree in Library Science from Indiana University, Bloomington and a Bachelors degree in Music from the University of Puget Sound.
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