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Project CHART - Digitizing Brooklyn History

Oct 20, 2010 12:51 PM | 1 comment

Brooklynology is pleased to welcome Micah Vandegrift for this guest post. Micah is the Coordinator for Project CHART (Cultural Heritage Access Research and Technology) at Brooklyn Public Library where he will be supervising interns in the digitization of historic photographs, and co-managing CHART's development as a cultural heritage curriculum.

Looks like Bedford these days too! View this image in our catalog. 

It is not difficult to imagine what Brooklyn would have looked like in the recent past. Many of the buildings, landmarks and neighborhoods retain the characteristics of their history very well. Fortunately, you don’t have to imagine it! As readers of Brooklynology may know, Brooklyn Public Library has an extensive collection of photographs, maps, periodicals and more that can help us construct a historic portrait of our fair city. Project CHART is an extension of the work that is already being done to preserve and provide access to those materials, and I am proud to introduce it to you here.

This is a multi-institutional project, funded by an IMLS (Institute for Museum and Library Services) grant awarded to Pratt Institute's School of Information and Library Science. In addition to the library, the Brooklyn Museum and the Brooklyn Historical Society are also undertaking  projects  to digitize their Brooklyn-based materials, and all the photos/documents/ephemera that are digitized through the grant will be combined into one gigantic, amazing digital history repository. Sharing resources between major cultural institutions in this manner is a growing trend, similar to the NYARC consortium, and is a very exciting development for us.  

As the ultimate goal of Project CHART is to begin to develop professionals who are experienced in digital curation (a buzz term in the library/museum world), my role will be to select, train and supervise interns from Pratt’s School of Information and Library Science. The interns will have the opportunity to get hands-on experience in dealing with historic materials, resolving issues relating to preservation and access, and sharing our findings through conferences and reports. The best part about this whole project is that the BPL interns and I will have our digital lab in “The Morgue,” a collection space deep in the library’s hallowed halls. Getting behind the doors, and into the collections will be a really valuable experience for the students.


Brooklyn Public Library has chosen several specific collections for this project, which will end up totaling around 6,000 images. (This is in addition to 18,000 images already digitized via previous grant-funded projects.) Below are several examples of the materials that we will be working with:

Brooklyn Daily Eagle Photographs - The Brooklyn Daily Eagle Photograph Collection documents change and development in the urban environment throughout the first half of the twentieth century. (c. 1900-1955)

Pope Mansion - 16 photographs, mostly of the interior of the building at 871 Bushwick Ave. (c. 1910)

Anders Goldfarb (Photographer) ‐ 22 Images that show everyday scenes in Brooklyn. These items have already been catalogued but are not yet digitized. (late 1970s to 1980s)

Bobby Fischer ‐ 28 Snapshots of Brooklyn‐raised chess master Bobby Fisher international tournament. (1962.)


Project CHART is still in the beginning stages, so there is not a lot more to tell at this point, except for the fact that we are very excited to have the opportunity to work closely with the Museum and the Historical Society on an endeavor of this scale. Keep an eye here on Brooklynology for periodic updates, and keep an ear out for upcoming events sponsored by the library, museum and historical society relating to this initiative.


11/22/2010 10:09:56 AM #

What an exciting project! I can't wait until the Bobby Fischer photos are available. He was such a troubled, but fascinating Brooklynite.

Here he is on a subway train you can only find at the Transit Museum these days: