October 2003 to Present
400 Years of Making a Living in Brooklyn
October 2003 to December 2006
If you worked on Brooklyn's waterfront
in 1897, you might have lived at 422 Van Brunt Street in Red
Hook and boarded with the Struck family
and their employees pictured here. Thirteen boarders from
Germany, Russia, Ireland, England, Scotland and New York slept and ate at the boarding house, conveniently
located just a short walk from work.
Fish smokers, farmers, nurses, brewers, pretzel bakers, novelists,
web-site designers, artists and artisans, truck drivers and
bankers, which is most typical of Brooklyn's working people?...
All are! "Brooklyn Works" celebrates four centuries of astonishing
enterprise and ingenuity, of change and continuity. Come with
us to explore the dynamic relationship linking this unique
place and people.
This family-centered, interactive exhibition was about the
working people of Brooklyn -- their occupations, the many
challenges they faced, their resilience -- and how Brooklyn's
workforce contributed to shaping the nation.
When you visited the Brooklyn Works exhibit, you and your family
became a part of history as you were transported back
to neighborhoods that reflect different periods of Brooklyn's
growth. You experienced what it was like to work on the
farms, docks, factories or shops in Brooklyn.
The stories of working in Brooklyn were told in the actual
words of individuals from the past including: Walt Whitman,
an early farmer, an enslaved laborer of the 1790s, an Irish
ropemaker on strike in the 1830s, a Jewish garment worker,
a 19th century real estate developer and warehouse owner,
an early 20th century assembly line worker, an African American
firefighter. You heard their stories, in their own words! It was a surprise
to hear from today's workers and discover the challenges and
rewards of working in contemporary Brooklyn.
This little girl is helping out
her father, a sheet metal mechanic, on the picket line when
he and his co-workers at the Federal Manufacturing and Engineering
Corp. in Williamsburg went on strike in 1949. Brooklyn has
a long history of workers organizing for better working conditions
Brooklyn Works traced Brooklyn's transformation from agricultural
to industrial to post-industrial, from blue collar to a rainbow
of collars. You were introduced to real people who have created this distinctive
heritage, and discoved how we are writing tomorrow's history.
The visitor explored America's biggest small town, a vibrant tapestry of
neighborhoods where high culture mixes with a roll-up-the-sleeves
spirit that continues to draw immigrants, industry, and opportunity.
Hospital workers? No. Factory workers
today at the Virginia Dare Company in Bush Terminal. These
workers mix exotic flavorings for a variety of foods sold
throughout the world.
Media-rich environments immersed visitors first in Brooklyn's
agricultural past, introducing them to the native Lenape Indians
and continuing with a light and sound show in a recreated
18th century farmhouse. The exhibit then moved toward the
East River to reflect Brooklyn's evolution into an international
seaport and manufacturing town in the mid 19th century. Immigrants
and newly emancipated enslaved Africans told their work stories
in their own voices. In a waterfront warehouse, visitors investigated
Brooklyn's central role in global trade. As visitors entered
the 20th century, they stroll onto a neighborhood streetscape.
In a recreated industrial environment, visitors were amazed
at the number of products born and developed in Brooklyn.
Women were essential to the industrial
workforce in the early 1900s, (as they are today). Located
in Greenpoint, these women worked in the boxing and labeling
department of the Eberhard Faber pencil factory.
learned more about the challenges longshoremen faced. In a garment
factory, a sixteen-year-old worker, shared her daily work
as well as the role of women in the industrial age. Inside
a sugar refinery, historic video footage highlighted the experience
of working in this important heavy industry in Brooklyn. In
a neighborhood barbershop, oral histories revealed the challenges
for people of color to earn their livelihood in the early
20th century. Ten contemporary Brooklynites shared their astonishing
productivity and perspectives on living and working in Brooklyn
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