Culture in Transit’s community scanning events were designed to focus on the adult and senior populations of Brooklyn and Queens, largely ignoring the thousands of school aged children living in those boroughs. This is a huge portion of the population that could make meaningful contributions to the project. These children are residents of the communities we’re trying to reach; it made sense to find a way to include them.
At the Brooklyn Public Library I’m fortunate to work with Brooklyn Connections, the education outreach branch of the Brooklyn Collection which aims to serve students and teachers in learning and practicing research skills using examples from local history. The Connections educators approached me with a partnership proposal that would allow me to bring my scanning equipment into classrooms all over Brooklyn and for their students to connect the history they’re learning in the classroom with their own experience in New York.
On the day of my visit each child is asked to bring in one item that reminds them of their life in Brooklyn, along with a consent and metadata form that is to be filled out at home with their parent. Because these children are under the age of 18, their parents must sign the consent form or I can’t accept their donation. I also wanted the metadata form to be filled out at home, assuming I would receive more accurate information about the item if the parent was assisting.
My first visit was to George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School in downtown Brooklyn. While Connections educator Brendan Murphy led a discussion on locating claims within informational text and identifying counterclaims and supporting evidence using examples from Brooklyn CORE’s “Operation Clean Sweep,” I set up my scanner in the back of the classroom. During the lesson the children were excused one at a time to bring me their item, which I scanned as I sat with them to review their paperwork.
I collected some great items, including the above photograph from student Austin Nguyen. This image is special for Austin, as he shared on his metadata form:
“It shows the youth of the Botanical Garden along with the beauty around it. This is one of the photos in which my family and I would cherish, since we lived in Brooklyn for 14 years.”
Austin’s photograph is a great example of the unique perspective that a younger generation can bring to Culture in Transit. In the upcoming months we have several visits scheduled at schools in Brooklyn and Queens; it will be exciting to see how students interpret the project and the items they choose to represent their experience as New Yorkers.