Brooklyn Exhibit Brings History to Life via Photographs, Stories

Hiding in the back of the closet or forgotten in the attic in practically every house is a box containing old family photographs and mementos. Now, the Brooklyn College Community Partnership has brought these photos to light by sponsoring the the Digital Diaspora Family Reunion Roadshow as it debuted another exhibition — this time showcasing people from the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York.

The creator of the Roadshow, Thomas Allen Harris, a filmmaker, journalist and educator, did so with the aim of adding an oral history component to the information locked in old photographs. Over the course of a week this October, students, faculty and staff of Brooklyn College will come together not only to show off their pictures and snapshots, but also to talk about the history behind each one.

“So much of our family histories are hidden away in attics and basements or buried on hard drives and cell phones. Yet those family photos are a treasure trove of stories about where we come from and how we are connected across our various differences, which is especially important at a time when we as Americans are grappling with who we are as a country,” said Harris, CEO of Chimpanzee Productions and award-winning filmmaker whose own family archives serve as the basis for many of his films. “We are happy to be working with BCCP to bring this experience to Brooklyn College in our first campus-wide DDFR Roadshow and hope it will be a model for community engagement partnerships across the country.”

The Roadshow also threw open its doors to all residents of Flatbush to bring their treasured or forgotten keepsakes. These “show and tell” sessions filled in blanks in the history of the people and the neighborhoods that surround Brooklyn College’s Midwood campus. Several student groups, including the Student Leadership Council, Black Male Initiative, LGBT Student Group and Advisory Board and the Brooklyn College Alumni Association took part.

In the spirit of sharing stories, the last day of the Roadshow showcased the history of the school itself by featuring documents from the Brooklyn College archive.

Photos will include those capturing the Brooklyn College campus history and Flatbush-Brooklyn history, as well as the Hank Kaplan boxing archives (the largest boxing archive in the nation) and the Shirley Chisholm archives. Later that day, Ron Schweiger, the official historian for the Borough of Brooklyn and the Brooklyn College Alumni Association president, will present information about the history of Brooklyn College and that of the Flatbush area, as well as the history of his own family, immigrants from Poland.