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Queens Memory is now in its seventh year of operation. We plan to develop the project in a number of innovative ways in the coming months:


Langston Hughes Jan. 26Queens Memory is now hosting 50 Years of Integration, a series of six community events focusing on neighborhoods that have experienced significant demographic changes over the past 50 years. Each event will feature a different combination of exhibits, guest speakers, panel discussions and more, and local residents will be invited to share personal histories, photos, memorabilia and artifacts for digitization. Our first event, Queens Memory Celebrates Astoria History and Culture, was held at the Broadway Library on November 12, with a follow-up program, Music and Memories of Astoria, on November 19. We then held two back-to-back conversations on the history and future of downtown Flushing on Jan. 21 and 22. Next, we moved to the Langston Hughes Library in Corona for a “look back” on school integration in Queens on Jan. 26, and will return for a panel discussion on contemporary community organizing on Feb. 25. The series is being funded by a Common Heritage grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and represents a collaboration with Brooklyn Public Library.

Hip Hop InitiativeQueens Memory is currently partnering with Queens Library and Queens College on a project to celebrate and preserve evidence of the impact and rich history of Hip Hop music and culture in the borough of Queens. Volunteer participants, which include Queens College Service Learning students, alumni and other community members, are conducting oral history interviews, digitizing photos and other documents, and organizing public programming events on Hip Hop topics. A project-related blog is also planned. This initiative grew out of Queens Library’s 8 Days of Nonstop Hip Hop program, a highly popular series of events held in several branch libraries last year. We recently held a scanning event for this initiative in conjunction with Queens Library’s Hip Hop History Month program, Hip Hop Behind the Lens with Ken Harris a.k.a. KENTHEPHOTOGRAPHER, at the Rochdale Village Branch Library.

culture in transit logoOur Culture in Transit event series, jointly administered by Queens Library, Brooklyn Library and the Metropolitan New York Library Council, has concluded. However, the project has yielded a rich set of resources for libraries, archives and other institutions around the country that hope to collect and digitize local history materials at community events. The Culture in Transit Toolkit can be freely downloaded and contains a wealth of information on event planning, documentation standards, equipment recommendations and more.

We are extending our outreach to new language communities through the Memories of Migration project, a pioneering effort created in partnership with the Santa Ana (Calif.) Public Library. Queens Library, as one of four model sites for the program, is hosting 40 community
Memories of Migrationhistory events tailored to elderly immigrants from Hong Kong, Taiwan and mainland China. Fluent Mandarin and Cantonese speakers will be on hand to help conduct the events and catalog the resulting digitized materials. The larger program is being supported by a National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Our first Memories of Migration event, an oral history workshop (see photo at left), was held on February 20 in conjunction with the Queens Museum’s New New Yorkers program.

The Memories of Migration events are also part of a larger series called Living Memory: The Culture and Heritage of Chinese New Yorkers, created by Queens Library and The Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA). Living Memory inaugural eventThe kickoff event for this series was held March 14 at the Flushing Library. The evening featured Queens Memory director Natalie Milbrodt conducting an interview with artist Zhang Hongtu (see photo at right), as well as a panel discussion on issues of identity in the process of becoming American. Panel participants included New York City Councilman Peter Koo, Jiayang Fan of The New Yorker, Prof. Peter Kwong of Hunter College and the CUNY Graduate Center, and food writer Kian Lam Kho. (Photo by Jingyi Zhang.)

Richmond Hill Love LetterOur ongoing series of community outreach events continues, with the next one taking place on February 14 at the Cambria Heights Library. Participants at the events lend their photographs, documents and memories to provide invaluable local knowledge and context to expand and support our archival materials. Digitization at these events increases digital literacy for participants and provides them with a free thumb drive of the scans to take home, filled with electronic surrogates of their important family records. It connects participants to the history of their neighborhood and engages them with other community residents both young and old. The digitized materials are then eligible to become part of the Archives at Queens Library’s permanent collections.

Queens Memory has held community events in Queens Library branches such as Broad Channel, Court Square, Forest Hills, Richmond Hill, Ridgewood, St. Albans, Seaside, Sunnyside and Woodhaven, and has collaborated on events with groups including the Bayside Historical Society, Broad Channel Historical Society, Five Boro Story Project, Queens Historical Society and Sunnyside Community Services Center.

An ongoing partnership with the Queens Museum focuses on interviewing people who attended the 1939 and/or 1964 World’s Fairs held in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. Photos and other materials related to the Fairs are also being digitized. A selection of audio clips and images gathered through this project are displayed in the World’s Fair Memories gallery on the Queens Memory site.

Professional Presentations

Queens Memory staff members are frequently invited to discuss our innovative programs with our colleagues in the library and archives communities. We were honored to have spoken at a number of such events so far this year, including the National Council on Public History Annual Meeting (Baltimore, March 19), DPLAfest 2016 in Washington, D.C. (April 14), the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (Pittsburgh, April 15), the Personal Digital Archiving Conference at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (May 14), and the American Library Association’s Annual Conference & Exhibition (Orlando, June 26).

Most recently, Queens Memory director Natalie Milbrodt addressed the Library and Information Technology Association Forum on the topic of our forthcoming mobile upload tool (Fort Worth, Nov. 19). Also, outreach coordinator Lori Wallach took part in a panel discussion on our Olde Towne of Flushing Burial Ground Project collaboration with Prof. Johnathan Thayer’s class at the Afterlives CUNY Public History Conference (New York, Oct. 28). We are delighted to share our experiences and learn from our colleagues at such gatherings.

Curriculum Inclusion

Queens Memory has an outreach coordinator based at Queens College’s Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL). This office’s overall mission is to support and promote faculty efforts in all aspects of teaching and curriculum development. Accordingly, CTL is providing Queens Memory with physical space, technological support and enhanced opportunities for collaborating with Queens College faculty. The outreach coordinator, Lori Wallach, can be reached at

Woodside-Irish-Oral-History-Project_v3In the spring 2016 semester, Queens Memory worked with Prof. Johnathan Thayer’s graduate Public History class on its investigation of the Olde Towne of Flushing Burial Ground. Students in the class — which is part of a dual master’s program offered by the history and library science departments — researched the site’s history and interviewed community activists who have fought to restore its status as sacred ground. Interviews and photographs gathered by the class are featured in a dedicated Gallery on the Queens Memory site, while other research projects can be viewed ‎here. Students shared their results at a standing-room-only public presentation on May 24.

We are also working with the college’s Irish Studies program on the Queens Irish Oral History Project. This project focuses on the sizable Irish immigrant community in Queens, seeking to record the experiences of those who settled in the area prior to 1970. The program’s Irish Memories Day in Woodside featured Irish music, dancing and food; attendees were encouraged to share photos and sign up for interviews.

In addition, we are collaborating with instructors in the Graduate School of Library and Information Studies and the American Studies department to include oral history and materials digitization components in their courses. In previous semesters, we have worked with instructors in the English and Sociology departments as well. We continue to explore such partnerships and are especially eager to pursue grant funding opportunities with faculty.

We encourage and share resources with educators at all levels who are interested in conducting oral history projects with their students. The results of these student efforts sometimes find their way into our archival collections. One such project was led by English teachers Robin Baumgarten and Evan O’Connell at the Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School in Forest Hills. Their year-long oral history project with eighth-grade students resulted in a book, Queens Migration: Origins Stories, highlighting students’ work.

We also hope to work with K-12 educators to develop lesson plans that incorporate Queens Memory materials. One example of the resources we can provide is our Teaching Guide on American Inventor Lewis Latimer, a collection of primary source documents and educational materials researched and curated by Jennifer Garland.

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  1. anonymous says

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