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Oral History

Member Newsletter • August 2020

<<First Name>>,

Thank you again for your support of Turnstile Tours. It has been such a pleasure over these past five months to share stories and connect with so many talented people and wonderful institutions. Our mission is to elevate stories that are underrepresented in the public record, and part of how we do that is by participating in and supporting oral history projects. We have incorporated oral history into many of our virtual programs, and we have more coming up, especially focused around the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. Please join us for our upcoming programs, and check out the resources below.

Here's what we having coming up in this month's newsletter:
  • Member Happy Hour // Thu, Aug 27, 5pm
  • New Programs & Looking Ahead
  • Membership Improvements // Please renew!
  • Oral History Resources

Member Happy Hour: Oral History & Family History
Thu, Aug 27, 5pm

Grab a drink and join our second monthly member happy hour! This month, we're discussing our experiences collecting oral history and documenting family history and genealogy, so come with your questions and thoughts to share about this – or anything else you want to discuss! RSVP HERE

Can't make it? Our next one will be on Sep 24.

New Programs & Looking Ahead


We kicked off our commemoration of the end of World War II with a program on the oral history collections of the Brooklyn Navy Yard (check it out here), and we're continuing it on V-J Day (Sep 2) by looking at the histories of the Brooklyn Navy Yard-built battleships that started (Arizona) and ended (Missouri) the war for the United States, and the people that built them. We'll then head over to the Brooklyn Army Terminal (Sep 6) to mark its 101st birthday with a special program on its World War II role with oral histories from soldiers and civilians. Then on Sep 19, we are hosting a virtual film screening with Theresa Loong (Feed Me A Story) of the documentary film she made about her father, who was a POW of the Japanese, Every Day Is a Holiday.

We also have a number of other excellent programs, including a panel discussion with mariners who participated in the 9/11 Boatlift to evacuate 500,000+ people from Lower Manhattan (ticketing coming soon!), a visit to Staten Island's National Lighthouse Museum, and a programs on gardening and foraging for medicinal Chinese herbs (also coming soon).

Images d'Épinal
Sun, Aug 23, 12:30pm

During the pandemic, Andrew has become a little bit obsessed with the paper dolls produced for over 100 years in the tiny French town of Épinal. On Sunday, he'll share some of the history, alongside Dr. Raisa Rexer, a professor of French at Venderbilt University. If you can't make the program, enjoy this archive we've assembled of some of our favorite Épinal prints from World War I. TICKETS & INFO

Membership Improvements // Please Renew!


Please renew your membership! As we transitioned out of our old membership system, you were given extended access to the new system, which has since expired for many of you. We would greatly appreciate it if you would consider renewing your subscription so you can continue participating in our virtual programs, and hopefully in in-person programs in the near future.

To check on your status, log in to your membership (click "Forgot Password" if you haven't logged in before) and scroll down to Subscriptions and Payments. You can restart your membership on our sign-up page. As always, if you have any questions or issues with your membership, don't hesitate to call or email us any time, and we're happy to assist you.
  • Browse recordings by topic: We have made the list of 125+ past programs easier to navigate. You can now sort past recordings by topic! All of our free programs are listed here, and you can find a similar menu of members-only programs on your member page. We have about 2/3 of the catalog indexed so far and should have the full catalog up within the next week.
  • Find past programs on a map: If you'd like to search the programs by neighborhood, check out our Google Map, which includes all of the past free programs. We will have the complete archive displayed geographically soon.
  • You can sign up for programs right on the My Membership page. Upcoming programs will appear as tiles that you can click on and sign up right there.
  • Change, upgrade, or cancel your subscription anytime: Just click the "Subscriptions" tab at the bottom of the My Membership page.
  • Still have questions? Check out our FAQs.

Virtual Open House for Teachers
Thu, Aug 27, 2pm

Join us for a discussion and demo with our team of Turnstile's virtual school programs for the 2020-21 academic year, including social studies, history, and government curriculum related to street vending, the Revolutionary War, and more. This program is open to all educators, and please contact us if you have any questions. RSVP

Oral History Resources


Oral history is such a critical part of our work because it helps to illuminate the lived experience of people in the places where we work. There are limits to what we can learn from official documents and secondary sources, and oral history is way to not only learn new factual information, but to build human connection and empathy with our visitors. In many ways, our guided tours are an adjunct of oral history, as they attract people and families with deep connections to our sites, and in many cases, we are able to record and share their connections and recollections, and sometimes even collect formal oral history recordings and donated artifacts.

If you or someone you know might be interested in sharing their story or recording an oral history related to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, New York Port of Embarkation, Prospect Park, public markets, or street vending, please get in touch with us. If you're interested in doing an oral history with someone yourself, check out great resources from StoryCorps and the Oral History Association. Below are some amazing resources and oral history projects that we have explored, and we encourage you to check them out or, if they're relevant to you or someone you know, contributing to them.

National Home Front Project

Started at Washington College in Maryland, this website has become a great repository of oral history collections from across the country documenting stories of workers and families, as well as people serving in uniform. There are at least eight complete oral histories from the Brooklyn Navy Yard collection, and hundreds of others. For other great World War II collections, check out NYU's Real Rosie the Riveter Project, which has 30+ video interviews with female industrial workers, Seaman's Church Institute's Merchant Marine Veterans Oral History Project, and the New York State Military Museum Oral History Program

Brooklyn Historical Society

We don't yet have the full Brooklyn Navy Yard oral history collection digitized and available online, but you can find so many more Brooklyn stories through this remarkable portal. The oral histories are fully transcribed and searchable by keyword, and they cover many different neighborhoods and topics. As an example, we learned about the communities around the Navy Yard through the Filipino-American oral history collection, and their Muslims in Brooklyn collection reveals important stories of the borough's cultural and spirtual life.

Visible Lives

Oral history should be about documenting and elevating the stories of people who are often absent from History-with-a-capital-H. Few projects exemplify this goal better than the New York Public Library's Visible Lives project, which interviewed hundreds of New Yorkers with disabilities. Many of these people are activists and advocates, but this is also an invaluable and inspiring record of day-to-day life with disability. Also check out the Disability Visibility Project, a partnership with StoryCorps, and if you're interested in learning more about the disability rights movement, watch Crip Camp (Netflix) and Lives Worth Living (not currently available on streaming, unfortunately).  

Pandemic Diaries

New York Public Library has also launched a new project to collect stories of New Yorkers during this world-historical moment, not just about fighting and coping with the pandemic, but the fight for racial justice, economic turmoil, and the lived experience of these trying times. Anyone can submit a recording through their portal, which has simple instructions for how to participate.
Please let me know if you have any questions about these resources, and join us for our Member Happy Hour on August 27, when we invite everyone to share their experiences with oral history and family history.
-- Andrew Gustafson
Turnstile Tours Turnstile Tours
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