A Place To Store Queens’ Memories
By Jason Banrey
Many great civilizations have taken it upon themselves to document their history. In this day in age, with the amount of technology available at the fingertips of almost every individual, Queens residents will soon play an active role in documenting the evolution of the country’s most ethnically diverse county.
In an effort to digitize the borough’s past and evolving history, Queens College has tipped the first domino that it hopes will set in motion an interest in capturing contemporary history as it happens.
The Queens Memory Project began as an independent study over the summer. Then, Natalie Milbrodt, a special collections and archives fellow in the Queens College Libraries, began conducting oral history interviews with residents of Flushing’s Waldheim neighborhood.
A resident of Flushing herself, Milbrodt noticed the immense relationship residents of this enclave shared with the borough of Queens after interviewing a woman who lived on the same street for more than 90 years.
Receiving a $25,000 grant in October from the Metropolitan New York Library Council, the project’s digital collaboration with the Queens College Library’s Department of Special Collections and Archives, and the Archives at Queens Library, will create an online site users can easily access.
The grant will also fund the digitization of archival records relating to subjects discussed during the oral histories. The combined images, interviews and digitized records will form the first-ever digital archive of contemporary and historical records of life in the borough.
“This creative process captures a lot of the history that usually falls through the cracks,” said Milbrodt. “Flushing is a great place to do work like this; it’s diverse, it’s rapidly changing; it’s a site of global migration with a rich history.”
Now manager of the Queens Memory Project, Milbrodt wants the venture to extend beyond its humble beginnings in Flushing with the hopes of encompassing the entire borough of Queens onto one site that users can access and actively have a hand in developing.
By combining neighborhood-specific historical and contemporary multimedia content – including maps, news clippings, blogs and notes related to their communities – the site aims to harness Web 2.0 technology that will allow users to further contribute to the collective memory in the borough.
“We are hoping the project takes on a life of its own, where people will start contributing themselves,” said Milbrodt. “If you are the most diverse county in the nation, you owe it to the people of your county to celebrate it.”
The site is expected to go live towards the end of 2011.
Reach Intern Jason Banrey at firstname.lastname@example.org or (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128.