Inventing Brooklyn: People, Places, Progress, now open at Brooklyn Historical Society, traces the evolution of Brooklyn into the place we know today. From Native American roots and lasting Dutch colonial influences to icons such as the Brooklyn Bridge and the Dodgers, Inventing Brooklyn looks at how various peoples, places, and historical events have shaped the development of the borough.
Brooklyn’s diversity has long been a point of local pride and continues to define the borough today. The oral histories featured in the exhibit speak to the diversity of Brooklyn’s people, neighborhoods, and many immigrant experiences.
Paul Mak was born in Hong Kong and immigrated here with his family. He is the founder of the Brooklyn Chinese-American Association, which serves the Chinese-American population of Brooklyn, and specifically Sunset Park. In this clip, Paul recalls his experience at James Madison High School where he witnessed the influx of Chinese immigrants as a student in the 1980s.
8th Avenue Sunset Park Oral History Collection (1993-1994)
Interview date: March 26, 1993
Encarnacion Armas, a well-educated and well-traveled resident of Brooklyn, describes her involvement with the Puerto Rican community in Brooklyn in the 1940s. In this clip, Armas reminisces about moving to Bay Ridge as a teenager and shares her experiences serving the Puerto Rican community.
Puerto Rican Oral History Project (1973-1976)
Interview Date: October 21, 1974
Milton Wurtzel was born in Manhattan and grew up in the Bronx and in Stuyvesant Heights, Brooklyn on Kosciusko Street. Wurtzel worked at Lieberman Shoe Factory as a foreman and at a slipper factory before he began his job as a welder at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. In this clip, Wurtzel discusses the ethnic diversity at the Navy Yard during the 1940s.
Brooklyn Navy Yard Oral History Project (ongoing)
Interview Date: February 12, 2009
Inventing Brooklyn: People, Places, Progress was created by the high school students in Brooklyn Historical Society’s Exhibition Laboratory program. From archival research to writing labels to selecting these oral history clips, the 2011 Ex Lab students worked closely with BHS staff, consulting historians, and professional exhibit designers over the course of the spring in order to make Inventing Brooklyn come to life.