Brooklyn Historical Society (BHS) is one of the few cultural institutions in Brooklyn that maintains an oral history program. Begun in 1973, BHS’s oral history collections now include over 1,200 interviews. These interviews bring the voices of history to broad audiences through exhibitions, digital humanities projects, K-12 and post-secondary curricula, public programs, and via the BHS blog and Flatbush + Main podcast.
The collections provide a wealth of historical evidence about the lives of twentieth-century and twenty-first-century Brooklyn residents, and reveal how diverse individuals and communities have sought to preserve vital social, political, religious, and cultural traditions as Brooklynites, New Yorkers, and Americans. The collections contain interviews conducted in English, Spanish, Cantonese, and Mandarin, with narrators born as early as 1880.
In coordination with the Library & Archives, access to oral history collections is enhanced with rich description in a user-friendly research interface. Recording the voices of today’s and yesterday’s Brooklynites and making them broadly accessible are some of the ways that BHS fulfills its mission to make the vibrant history of Brooklyn tangible, relevant, and meaningful for today’s diverse communities, and for generations to come.