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Teacher Professional Developments

Nov 27, 2012 2:12 PM | 0 comments

This winter, Brooklyn Connections is pleased to provide two FREE professional development workshops for NYC teachers and educators.  The workshops are open to all teachers if the five boroughs and offer a unique opportunity to tour and explore the Brooklyn Collection in a small group with our dedicated staff and special guest historians.


Photography and Archives: An Interdisciplinary Approach

Thursday, December 13, 2012, 9:00am - 3:00pm

Learn how to use photography and primary sources to uncover the history of Brooklyn.  Joined by renowned Brooklyn-born artist, Jamel Shabazz, we will look at how photography and archival research can be a powerful teaching tool.  Practice using primary sources; learn how to use our materials to fulfill Common Core standards in Social Studies and ELA (English Language Arts), and develop new methods for using local topics to increase student engagement.  Breakfast and lunch will be provided.  Teachers will leave with resources to use in the classroom.


Brooklyn and the Civil Rights Movement

Monday, January 14, 2013, 9:00am - 3:00pm

Explore the Brooklyn Collection's original Civil Rights materials with expert historian Dr. Brian Purnell.  Learn about the efforts of Brooklyn CORE, which included protests, community clean-ups, fasts, a stall-in, marches and even a sit-in at the Brooklyn Board of Education.  This workshop will provide teachers with the content knowledge and materials needed to help students explore Brooklyn's role in the Civil Rights Movement.  Breakfast and lunch will be provided.  Teachers will leave with a packet of classroom-ready resources.


More information about both sessions can be found our Teacher Page.  Reservations are required and space is limited for both events, so don't delay!

We hope that all of Brooklynology's teacher readers will join us.  To RSVP please call Brooklyn Connections at 718-230-2706 or email at

For more information about all of our Brooklyn Connections services, visit our page.

Author Talk: Henrik Krogius on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, Wednesday November 28th, 6:30pm

Nov 27, 2012 10:36 AM | 0 comments

Please join us tomorrow night, Wednesday November 28th, for the latest installment of our lecture series.  Brooklyn Heights Press editor Henrik Krogius discusses his book The Brooklyn Heights Promenade. Krogius' latest book takes us on an intimate look at the history and beauty of the promenade and the role it played in the ambitions of Robert Moses. 

A wine and cheese reception commences at 6:30pm, with the lecture starting at 7pm. Seating is limited to 40 people. Tickets will be given out 30 minutes before the lecture.  While you're enjoying refreshments, we welcome you to view our latest exhibition, Brooklyn Then and Now, which chronicles some of the changes in Brooklyn Heights and other Brooklyn neighborhoods, and is on view until December 7th. 

Images from the exhibit show the promenade then (1954, above) and now (2012, below).

Handmade in Brooklyn

Nov 26, 2012 1:09 PM | 1 comment

Handwoven rugs in festive stripes, meticulously crafted straw brooms, and faux-rustic woven baskets attractively arranged in a narrow storefront under an ornate tin ceiling... the photo above looks like it could be a modern-day Instagram of any number of home decor boutiques or Brooklyn Flea stalls that have popped up in our borough's recent artisinal renaissance.  And it certainly does fit into that tradition, as the items were all made in Brooklyn by skilled craftsmen and -women.  But this photo, undated but most likely from the 1930s, shows the handiwork not of trendy 21st century urbanites but of the residents and members of Brooklyn's Industrial Home for the Blind.

Above, the Industrial Home for the Blind's original location at 96 Lexington Avenue.

The Industrial Home for the Blind (IHB) was founded in 1893 by the Mizpah Circle, a society of blind men and women who organized with the mission of helping other blind citizens find useful, sustained employment.  Modelled on the Pennsylvania Home for Blind Men, the IHB sought to not only provide lodging for blind and vision-impaired Brooklynites, but also to provide them with practical skills and a steady income.  At its helm was a former coal-dealer, Eben P. Morford, who was blinded at the age of 17 in 1883, when a friend accidentally discharged a pistol at his face, "the ball from which passed through both his eyes from side to side."  Some friend.  Not one to wallow in his misfortune, Morford reasoned, according to a 1941 Brooklyn Daily Eagle profile, that "blindness was physical, but vision mental and spiritual."  It was with this singular vision that he led the organization into the 20th century, expanding its membership and industries along the way.

In its early years, the activities of the IHB were limited by its cramped quarters on Lexington Avenue, which afforded only two working rooms in the basement and one in the back of the house.  In its annual report from 1900, the organization reported 28 working "inmates", who manufactured 39,757 brooms over the previous year and earned wages of $3,975.71.  Fifteen years later the home housed 36 workers, who made just over 50,000 brooms and earned $9,534.  In addition to the brooms, baskets, and rugs pictured above, the workers also manufactured mops, crates and mattresses, fashioned rubber mats from old tires, and re-caned the seats of chairs.  These items could be purchased directly from the home, with the profits going toward maintaining the services offered at the IHB, which included room and board for workers who lived there as well as in-house physician visits and training.

Above, a price list from the 1912 annual report of the IHB.

The IHB opened its larger headquarters at 520 Gates Avenue (above) in 1928, which allowed for more workers in better facilities.  The Gates Avenue building still stands today, and is home to another job-placement organization, the DOE Fund.  Production at the IHB ramped up in the 1940s, when the IHB won contracts with the Army and Navy to provide 100,000 deck mops and 60,000 brooms, their own contribution to the war effort.  In 1941 revenue climbed to $475,000, a full $150,000 increase from the year previous.  Workers, meanwhile, were taking home anywhere from $30 to $50 a week in wages, depending on their skills.

Above and below, workers at the 520 Gates Avenue facility. 

As the IHB expanded it was able to offer a greater range of services to a larger number of people, including instruction in reading Braille and a library of books printed in Braille.  More than just a factory, the IHB became a community hub, a place where people went not only to work but also to socialize.  It had its own theater group which put on shows at the affiliated Light Buoy Club at 43 Greene Avenue. 

Above, a theatrical production staged by blind and sighted employees of the IHB in May of 1950, "Dirty Work at the Crossroads."  Below, a photo of an IHB-sponsored fishing trip to Montauk Point from October of 1954 includes Richard Kinney and Robert J. Smithdas, third and fourth from left, both of whom were deaf and blind.  Smithdas was a member of IHB staff and, along with Kinney and Helen Keller, one of only three blind-deaf people in the U.S. to have earned a college degree at the time.  Smithdas was the very first blind-deaf person to earn a master's degree, from his studies at New York University.


The IHB continued to expand its activities through the years, adding services for children and seniors as well as partnering with other organizations that provided aid to the blind in the region.  In 1953 a new headquarters was established in downtown Brooklyn, at 57 Willoughby Street.  To memorialize its longtime supporter, the organization's name was changed to Helen Keller Services for the Blind in 1985.  HKSB continues to offer a range of services to members of the blind community from of its Willoughby Street address today.

Below, Helen Keller, the very first blind and deaf person to earn a bachelor's degree, renowned author and activist, and subject of the play and film The Miracle Worker (second from right), celebrated her 65th birthday at the IHB.

Stranger than Turkey

Nov 19, 2012 12:16 PM | 1 comment

It's part of my job to recommend books to patrons -- something on Native American walking trails in New York City? Try this; flora of Prospect Park? This should do it; a judo how-to by the president of Russia? No problem -- but today I'd like to stretch my advisory wings and offer some more timely recommendations: recipes from our collection that will be sure to spice up your Thanksgiving feast!

Let's begin with the Victory Memorial Cookbook which, as you can see from the title page above, was published by the Women's Auxiliary of the Victory Memorial Hospital at 7th avenue and 92nd street. Published in 1920, this cookbook offers a dizzying assortment of be-mayonnaised, be-marshmallowed, and be-gelatined delicacies. In the service of good library work, I offer up here a few of my favorites for you to try out on your loved ones this holiday season.

After you've tried every other plaid-themed salad out there, surprise your relatives with this delicious recipe. Vinegar, marshmallows, apricots, red pepper, and egg yolks... what's not to love? But maybe you're in the mood for something more creative and, um... illuminating? Then buy yourself a pineapple and try this fantastic Candle Salad...

Who knew mayonnaise could be used to such effective sculptural ends? A more ambitious chef might forego the humble candle holder handle and attempt an entire mayonnaise chandelier. Dare to dream.

But listen, I have a degree in Library Science, the words of S.R. Ranganathan are never far from my mind, and I know not everyone likes Candle and Argyle salads; I know that just as there is a book for every reader, there is a salad for every eater. With that in mind, I turn now to the above text book for my next recommended recipes.

Should the luxurious Candle Salad be too much for any of your Thanksgiving guests, treat them to a dish of water toast. Ah, water toast! Is nothing more comforting and filling than a piece of dry toast doused in boiling salt water? But, again, not everyone likes water toast... and so, try out this favorite of the toothless, the orphaned, the mad, and the neglected... 

Cracker gruel, which is food the YWCA recommends caretakers serve to invalids (as is water toast), seems like a cruel joke: if the living feed you sodden crumbs, how bad can the food coming out of Death's kitchen be? But who knows, maybe that odd second cousin of yours will be delighted to find before them, in place of an oven-roasted bird, a mound of maraschino-studded mayonnaise followed by a bubbling bowl of gruel. We librarians encounter it all the time... you can make recommendations until you're blue in the face, but there's no accounting for taste.

An all too familiar sight

Nov 14, 2012 10:20 AM | 1 comment


This engraving from Harper's Weekly dated February 28, 1885, comes from our collection of 19th century engravings. These images form a vital link in the visual record of 19th century Brooklyn. You can see the full list of our prints here.  Also, did you know that finding aids to many of our collections are now online? Check them out here. The list is growing, so check back from time to time to see what's new.