Queens: Neighborhood Stories
Queens, New York City, NY, USA
October 2013 – June 2014, with community engagement in May and June 2014
Partner: Queens Library
Queens Library wanted to run a project to:
- Equip library staff with the tools and techniques to engage their local community in local archiving and storytelling sessions
- Work with the local community to create a grassroots archive to share and celebrate the history of Queens
- Make the library’s collection and digitisation of personal materials more sociable
- Contribute to strengthening local social capital in Queens
- Engage people in the local community with the library
Queens is the most diverse county in the US, made up of many neighborhoods, each with its own unique identity. Queens Library wanted to involve the local community in finding, collecting and sharing local stories to paint a picture of Queen’s rich history and communities.
Queens Library staff, supported by two Service Corps interns from City University New York, worked with local branch libraries to community events which brought together people in their local library to share and capture local stories.
The library had very few contemporary material from Southeast Queens neighborhoods, an area with a rich history of African American music and home to musicians like Count Base, Billie Holiday and LL Cool J. So the community engagement programme focused on the southeast neighbourhood of St Albans, working with St Albans library who ran activities which tied in with wider programming around the history of hip hop. They blended afternoon reminiscence sessions targeted at local older people with evening events targeted at younger audiences to create a free flowing event of community storytelling about St Albans.
All the material gathered, alongside photographs from Queen’s Library Collections, was shared in a dedicated Neighborhood Stories collection on Historypin.org. Queens also used the Historypin Tour feature to create digital heritage trails around specific neighbourhoods.
What was created?
- 8 community storytelling and collecting events
- A digital collection of 859 photos and stories on Historypin.org which had 1,830 visits and an average view time of 10 minutes
- 5 training videos sharing advice from the Historypin team to support library staff and volunteers in running community engagement events
“Queens Library Preserves St. Albans History In Archives”, 4th June 2014, Queens Gazette
WHAT DID WE DO?
Local Community Engagement
- Advised Queens Library staff and interns on how to adopt the Historypin engagement methodology
- Designed and created community engagement materials
Training and support
- Remote training and support of Queens Library staff and interns (how to run community events, how to use Historypin.org)
Design & Digital
- Designed the creative identity for “Queens: Neighborhood Stories”
- Created a custom collection, with a a unique design and partnership branding
Collections and content
- Bulk uploaded historical photos from Queens Library
Measurement and Evaluation
- Designed process and materials for measuring the impact of the project
- 40% of participants surveyed met someone new from a different generation.
- 40% of participants surveyed met someone new from a different culture.
- Queens Library developed and strengthened their relationships with other local organisations. Some contributed historical photos (eg. The Museum of the City of New York added images of the 1939 World Fair in Flushing Meadows, Queens), whilst some local colleges like CUNY integrated it with their teaching programmes.
“The highlight was having an opportunity to share experiences and memories, that may be referenced in a written or oral history of the area.”
“Residents’ music-related memories were just a jumping off point into larger personal narratives that touch the civic, religious, and economic history of the area.”
It has been great to have the energy the staff at Historypin brought to our work. The ideas that a third party brings to the table, opens avenues of thoughts and discoveries that wouldn’t have been thought about otherwise.