Map of the Greenwich Village section of New York City (1961)On Thursday, November 14, twelve volunteer interviewers sat in a circle in the first floor auditorium at Jefferson Market Library having a dynamic conversation about the nature of memory, open interview questions, and the history of Greenwich Village. This was the first of several volunteer interviewer orientations for Your Village, Your Story: Greenwich Village Oral History Project.
"Why are you interested in this project?" I asked everyone in attendance as an introductory question. Some people were there because they had lived in the neighborhood for decades. Others were students, new to the neighborhood, seeking community involvement. A few were residents of other neighborhoods, fascinated by the bits and pieces of Greenwich Village history they'd heard trhoughout the years. Everyone was ready to learn more.
Your Village, Your Story: Greenwich Village Oral History Project has been in the works for a while at Jefferson Market Library. According to Library Manager Frank Collerius and Senior Librarian Corinne Neary, the project idea began as a way to capture and preserve the history of the surrounding neighborhood, a history that is disappearing as residents move out and the area changes. The best way to truly fill in the gaps of this history is by recording the lived experience of the people who have a real connection to the neighborhood; who can tell stories about the neighborhood. These stories will be accessible in a circulating collection at the library, building interest in the Greenwich Village area history through community listening.
Before the official launch of the project in January 2014 when interviewers are paired with neighborhood residents who want to record their oral histories, each volunteer will first interview someone that they know who has a connection to the neighborhood. People around the circle at our orientation session brought up specific buildings, people and restaurants that they are looking forward to exploring in these first interviews. Tom Klem, volunteer interviewer and neighborhood historian mentioned that "No matter what we talk about in an interview, we should all be open to surprise." As the oral history project launches, this is an important point to remember—when we excavate unwritten history through the stories of the people who lived it, anything can happen. I look forward to listening to these oral histories (and yes, being surprised!) as the project moves forward. Interviews will be collected on an ongoing basis until April 2014.
Manhattan: 6th Avenue (1938)
About this Project:
Your Village, Your Story: Greenwich Village Oral History Projectis an oral history project that works to both preserve and document neighborhood history through the stories of longtime residents. This project will collect stories of people who have lived in the neighborhood for over 20 years, train community members to conduct these interviews, and share all interviews in a public archive and on the New York Public Library website, using these recordings as a springboard for public programming.
It's not too late to be a volunteer interviewer! There are two more orientation sessions on Wednesday, December 4 and Thursday, December 5, each beginning at 6:30 p.m. To RSVP for one of these sessions, please contact Frank Collerius (FrankCollerius@nypl.org).