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Memory Circles Bring History to Life at Jefferson Market Library

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The 8th Street Shops Memory Circle shares stories at Jefferson Market Library

*Photographs taken by Andy Robson.

Jefferson Market Library was alive with the energy of storytelling last Thursday, March 13th as storytellers and interviewers for the Greenwich Village Oral History Project took over the library. It was an evening of Memory Circles, or recorded group oral histories, in which participants talked with each other about their shared recollections on particular Greenwich Village themes.

We had memory circles on food, the Halloween Parade, first apartments in the Village, arts, and 8th street shops.

Before we split up into our separate groups, we gathered in the auditorium for a toast to Your Village, Your Story: Greenwich Village Oral History Project. “When you check out a recording kit,” Frank Collerius, Jefferson Market Library Manager said, “You’re bringing a story back to the library.”

The Arts in the Village Memory Circle at Jefferson Market Library

So far, our amazing group of volunteers has collected over 70 oral histories from longtime Village residents, shop owners, and visitors. Interviewers will be collecting stories until the end of April and our final celebration will be open to the public on Friday, April 25th.

At our evening of Memory Circles last Thursday, sharing circles were set-up throughout the library. The Food in the Village group sat in the third floor reference room and began their circle by remembering the “vivid smells of the Village.” Several participants in this group shared smells that they remembered from their early years in the Village – Italian bakeries, cheese shops, and butchers. Elaine Battaglia remembers going to kindergarten at the Children’s Aid Society and “dreading” the smell of a chicken market nearby.

Suzanne Sahi shares a story at the Arts in the Village Memory Circle

Stories were swapped and connections were made. Farley Tobin met a storyteller in the Arts group who has lived on her block in the Village for “many years” but they’d never had the opportunity to really talk.

The “mm hmms” “uh huhs” and “yes, I remember thats” from all of the Memory Circles filled the whole library with the magic of living stories shared between people with an incredible sense of common nostalgia.

These Memory Circle recordings will be part of our Greenwich Village Oral History project collection which can be listened to at the library this Summer and beyond.

The Food in the Village Memory Circle

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 and community dialogue.

Get Involved

Interested in telling your Greenwich Village story? Please contact Corinne Neary (CorinneNeary@nypl.org) at Jefferson Market Library.

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