Fire’s Wrath

Prof. Gold

ENG 1101

City Tech

Fall 2011

Joshua M.

`                                     Fire’s Wrath

Throughout time fire has devastated many countries and societies all over the world. There have been many great fires throughout time an important one being the Brooklyn theater fire. During my time at the BHS I have studied and reviewed some archives on the Brooklyn theater fire and on Brooklyn during that time period. I was amazed at how time changed Brooklyn so much and what precautions were taken to prevent tragedies like of the Brooklyn Theater fire one. I also learned from being in my architecture classes that many new methods have been made to avoid these situations like, Cementitious mixtures, fire resistant sprays, and Intumescent paint. In Addition to those “upgrades” more exits have been made to assure the safety of the people which is the sole responsibility of an architect. All of these methods have proved to be successful and have avoided many tragedies that could’ve happened.

During my time at the BHS I have gone over many archives and lists of disasters that had occurred. One of the archives was a list of the funeral bills of all of the people who died in the Brooklyn Theater fire. I was surprised at how cheap it was to pay for a funeral back then. It was mostly because the city would help the families pay for their tragic losses but even so the price ranged to about $100 to $150 with out any help. Today funerals cost around $6000 dollars!! and that’s without adding extra services, flowers etc. During the Brooklyn theater fire so many lives were lost and it was also due to mostly because of the lack of exits. There were only two exits and it was impossible to get hundreds of people out in time. At the BHS I also got the chance to look over some maps that described Brooklyn during 1876 when the fire occurred and years before it happened. During the 1870’s Brooklyn use to be very different than it is today. Many of the houses were being constructed by wood which meant Brooklyn was a city born to burn in ash. Many residential areas were close to factories and dangerous buildings. After the Brooklyn theater fire many adjustments were made as in separating residential from commercial areas. They stopped the construction of wood houses which greatly reduced the probability of fires happening.

A reading that I also found interesting was “Reading Lucy” because of how Lucy explains how life was in Brooklyn. She worked in the Brooklyn Navy Yard and she shared her experiences during her time there. The Brooklyn Navy Yard use to be very busy and populated, but now it is barely used and desolate. It showed me how Brooklyn has changed and how many things have died out throughout time. During our time we mostly depend on commercial areas such as malls, fast food restaurants etc. Societies are being created for the sole purpose of keeping its people safe and happy. The safety of people has become the number one priority since all of the tragedies. Also in the BHS I saw a list of archives that showed an estimated amount of all the lives lost and images on how the Brooklyn Theater looked after the fire. Around 300 people died that day and the building was completely destroyed. It also showed how close other buildings were to it. Back then Buildings had no space between each building giving a fire a chance to spread in minutes across a whole block.

I have learned a lot in my Arch Materials class and understand all of the methods that have been taken to prevent fires. One of these methods is known as Cementitous mixtures. It involves a material known as Gypsum which is fire resistant itself. Gypsum is put on all of the important structural parts of a building in order to give the people inside a greater chance to escape a fire. The ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) tests how long a material such as steel, concrete etc. can last before it fails or is unstable after a certain amount of time of being exposed to fire. The gypsum mechanically binds to the structure allowing it to last longer making it a great method for fire safety. Another method is fire resistant spray which basically just sprays on a fire resistant material over the structure to protect it. It wasn’t one of the bets methods, but it was one of the cheapest and quickest.  The last method is the most expensive but the most effective in killing fires before they spread. It is called Intumescent paint and it is a paint that is put on the structure and is set of when it reaches a certain temperature. It starves the fire out by taking away all of its oxygen and killing it at the spot. A last upgrade that was created was for buildings was a space between buildings called “party space.” It allowed a building that was next to one on fire to resist from catching in fire. It restricted the fire to only one building so that it would stop from being an even bigger problem. These methods have been created throughout time to prevent fires from occurring and it shows how we all learn from our mistakes.

I enjoyed my time at the BHS because of all the things I learned while being there. I got to see how Brooklyn was during the 1800’s and how much it changed.  I also got to see “Lucy’s” letters in person and read them once more. I was able to look at how much funerals cost back then and to see how many families were affected by the Brooklyn Fire. I enjoyed how we were all motivated and encouraged to participate. I think the staff was great at what they did because they explained everything very well and were very friendly at the same time. I liked how we worked as a team and even though we only had a couple of weeks to go I felt like if I learned months of information.



“Reading Lucy” by Jennifer Egan

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Learning from the past

IsaĂ­as Garcia

Final Project

English 1101- Prof. Gold




History can teach us many things. For scientists, it can show them how not to repeat a mistake done in an experiment, or further enhance an existing product. For the everyday person, history shows us how certain areas came to be known as they were, and even shape the way in which we go about our everyday lives. Sometimes it can even reveal answers to questions that otherwise would seem impossible to answer. Through the many hundreds of centuries in which human beings have taken extra care to ensure that their lives have been told for others to learn from. Today nothing is different. My experience these past couple of months visiting the Brooklyn Historical Society has given has shown how important keeping this information can be. Thanks to the marvels of technology, there are many different ways to catalogue and safeguard these teachings. How far has technology truly come, and has it benefited us for better or for worse? The letters that Lucy Kolkin wrote to her husband, Gabriel Furman’s journals, and the Atlases of Brooklyn over the past decades show some insight on why and how archiving information is important for our lives today.


Why is it important to save old pieces of paper like Lucy’s letters? Many upon reading these letters may ask themselves this very question. The reason these letters are so important today is because of the historical value these letter provide. Though major events are chronicled in most papers, it is difficult to understand what happened in the daily life of the normal person that normally wouldn’t appear in the newspaper. For example, Lucy Kolkin was a ship builder in the 1940’s in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Life was hard, considering the U.S. was in the middle of being dragged into a war that seemed to have no end in sight. The Brooklyn Navy Yard was probably one of the most safely guarded ports in the Eastern seaboard. Not much was known about the area, or how things moved about in the yard while it was in function, with maps only portraying the area vaguely. Lucy’s letters, though not detailing the work she did in any amount of great length, did show how life was for her at that time. This insight reveals how Brooklyn was shaped into the place it is today, and how life was for the people back then. Presently the BHS holds physical copies of these letters today.

Jennifer Egan’s short essay “Reading Lucy” shows the authors own personal connection after reading Kolkin’s letter. The BHS offered Mrs. Egan the opportunity to connect with Kolkin across various decades. In her essay, Mrs. Egan states how the original purpose of her research was to discover how to ship builders in the Brooklyn Navy Yard faired during the war effort. These letters provided an insight that otherwise might have been lost if not properly archived.


Now is holding the physical copy of these letters be wasting space? Maybe since, as Ms. Leslie N. Carraway made clear in her essay On Preserving Knowledge, new ways of archiving things, such as Lucy letters, have allowed for them to be stored digitally and take up as much space as a USB flash drive does. Although I agree that not everything should be archived in physical form, that some things are lost if read digitally opposed to holding the paper. Does it truly give the same sense of awe reading a book handwritten in 1832 on a computer, as it does holding the physical book in your hand? There is a very delicate balance between the conservation of books through physical and digital means.

Taken at the BHS, with it's permission

Imagine yourself holding a book, whose pages are yellowed with age and smell of old paper and ink. Opening said book with utmost care making sure that you don’t jostle the pages too much for fear of tearing them. This was the small ritual I performed as I held Gabriel Furman’s journal in my own hands, of which, the books age made me nervous to handle it. The information held on the aged battered pages is what gave me even more of a shock. Furman took a great deal of time and care to write every detail available to him at the time. When talking about a possible cure for cholera, Furman when to great detail in transcribing the cited newspapers into his own notes. This pain-staking meticulousness seemed to be a shining example in researching a topic, which many people seemed to copy. This ensured that Furman was misinterpreted, and that his ideas were very clear and well understood.

Something else that helped to see the way the past is so important to us was looking at the atlases of Brooklyn. One of these atlases contained information that was relevant pack then, and can even be used today. For example, on one of our visits to the BHS, we saw a map that showed the type of material that the buildings were made of. These such maps were used in the 1800’s to help insurance companies to figure out how much they were to charge a person for insuring a specific building depending on the location of the building and also on the materials that the building was made of. We also saw maps that showed lots of buildings, which showed were the property would begin and end for a specific lot. These lot maps have been used consistently over the years, to the point that they are even used today by various agencies to catalog and ensure where the properties they are trying to sell or buy begins and ends. The only way for these lot maps are up-to-date would be to trace the maps that detailed the sale and locations of these lots. Without proper archiving, disputes would begin over who owns the land and were a person can build.

Proper archiving of materials is something that can benefit us all. Though the methods in which to store this information, which Kirschenbaum goes into detail in his short essay “Hamlet.doc?”, which analyzes the advantages of digital archiving over conventional. Though there are advantages to digital archiving, conventional archiving can still be useful, for example, would have it been possible for Mrs. Egan to make a connection with Lucy Kolkin if she had read a digital version of Lucy’s letters? Probably, but it would have been harder. When comparing both Kirshenbaum and Carraway’s, the benefits of digital archiving are evident. They save space, and with the continuing advancement of digital storage devices, the amount of space that can contain data becomes basically unlimited. It is thanks to this technology that archiving has come so far.

The past is something that affects us all today. Whether we store the information of our past digitally or conventionally, what matters is that we look to the past and remember it. Remembering the past can help unlock, and enlighten our future.



Works Cited

Carraway, Leslie N. “On Preserving Knowledge.” Http:// Web.

Egan, Jennifer. “Reading Lucy.” Brooklyn Was Mine. Http:// Web.

Kirschenbaum, Matthew. “Hamlet.doc?” Web. <>.

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Exploring the Past

Wandrille B.

Prof. Gold.

My first semester of College was a very interesting time for me, I was introduced to a variety of new things, from living on my own, a whole lot of architecture, to a great place full of some of the most accurate information one can get their hands on, the Brooklyn Historical society. The Historical society was a major part of my first semester in college, I was able to go in and visit, and dig into its hoard of knowledge, with the guidance of my professor and two very helpful ladies that worked there.Looking at hand written letters and documents going all the way back to the 19th century really changed my perception of learning . I was able to compare the lifestyle of different generations all the way up to my own, which helped me partially realize how the borough I live in became the way it is today. Not only does the Historical have an archive blooming with letters, documents, maps, novels and original photographs, but it also consistently has various interesting exhibits and an old antique style of architecture that absorbs one into its archives.

From the first day of attending the Historical society i’ve embarked on a new adventure, an adventure that would take me back in different periods of time. What set me off on this adventure was our first research assignment, Reading Lucy, written by Jennifer Egan. It took me back to the 1940s where at the time Brooklyn housed one of the worlds largest and most impressive shipyard. Lucy, a young women of the time, worked at the shipyard as many women did during World Two, as most of the men were out fighting in Europe and in the Pacific. Lucy was at the time in her 20s and married to a young soldier named Alfred.

The Library Of the Brooklyn Historical Society

“On May 7, Lucy wrote, “Butchie – guess what! I had a dream last night about our having a baby-a couple of months old-cute + blond-and dressed in a regular basque shirt + shorts (Egan 27-28)” This is a sample of one of the letters used in Egan’s essay that shows the relationship between Lucy and her husband Alfred. Upon our first visit at the Historical society we had the opportunity to read and study the actual letters written by Lucy to alfred, which was very interesting. We read numerous letters of her letters, spending time trying to depict some of the words written ( as it was written in cursive). We read her letters all the way up until after the war, where they tried to decide on how to efficiently organize Lucy’s moving to California new where Alfred was now stationed. They first debated, because Lucy wanted to continue on working, instead of moving in right where Alfred was without a career of her own. Upon reading this first hand letter by Lucy, myself and a few other students discussed it over and came to the conclusion, that time must have been changing, as women became more inclined to have their own careers. Reading over the essay Reading Lucy and her own hand written letters changed the way I perceived the past, and made me start to compare it to the time I live in now.

Going now from how from learning how people lived generations before my own to how the great borough of Brooklyn became what it is today I learned to put more into consideration of how things affect the structure of cities. Starting with the article How Epidemics Helped Shape the Modern Metropolis written by John Wilford, I learned that Disease was a major part of what the structure of Brooklyn is now based on. “The disease hit hardest in the poorest neighborhoods, particularly the slum known as Five Points, where African- Americans and immigrant Irish Catholics were crowded in squalor and stench (Wilford)”, “The epidemic left 3,515 dead out of a population of 250,000. (The equivalent death toll in today’s city of eight million would exceed 100,000.) (Wilford)” These two quotes from the article by Wilford are a great example of how Disease plays a major part of the structure of a city. In response to this disaster the city would soon have sewer projects underway to try and resolve the ongoing problem of the lack of hygiene. After reading this we were able to go to the Brooklyn Historical society and look at actual hand drawn plans of sewer systems. I find it very interesting to learn that because of such disasters we know now how to efficiently build a city that can host millions of people.

Map of Sewers, Courtesy of Brooklyn Historical Society.

As the semester now comes to an end I look at all my experiences these past few months. I feel, as I always have when a school term ends, more mature and educated. The brooklyn historical society gave me a new insight on how things where. It took the past out history text books, movies and novels and brought it out in a much more realistic way, in letters written directly by actually people. Being able to see those different handwritings really did have a strange effect on me. At first I felt guilty to read into peoples private lives, but I very soon realized that I was reading it in the exact way that letters like these should be read, a way in which I wanted to learn how these people lived, how they responded to disasters and catastrophes. Because of them I live in a city that is sanitary and safe. For that I am very thankful. The Brooklyn Historical Society was a very positive part of my education, and I plan to return there and continue on with my adventure.

Works Cited:

Egan, Jennifer. “Brooklyn Was Mine”. RIVERHEAD BOOKS Published by the Penguit Group Penguin Croup (USA) Inc. .17! Hudson Street, NewYork, NewYork lOOl4, USA

Wilford, John. “How Epidemics Helped Shape the Modern Metropolis”. NY TIMES. April 15, 2008.

“They say/I say” : the moves that matter in academic writing / Gerald Graff, Cathy Birkenstein.


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Final Project: Archives and its Preservation

Jeffrey T.

Final Project

English 1101- Prof. Gold


Over the history of mankind many catastrophic events have taken place, which have shaped society today.  An easy 90 % of these events were not recorded and can’t be traced back.  Present day archivists such as the Brooklyn Historical Society work to save and preserve any kind of item, book, map, picture and etc., which may in the future be considered history.  Having organizations such as the BHS, preserving artifacts is an easier job to do.  Being able to decide what is important and how to preserve these artifacts is a hard process.   As well, being able to interpret and figure out the bigger message is an even harder continuous process.  Being able to visit the Brooklyn Historical Society personally makes you have a deeper appreciation for history and honestly it’s a great experience.

During my first visit to the Brooklyn Historical Society, I was a little doubtful of how it would go. I was brought to a rude awakening when I saw the beautifully built library shadowing over Pierrepont St. Hearing the introductory speech and seeing the old pieces of work around me, I was suddenly very interested in Brooklyn history.  The first assignment was to split up into groups, and analyze three different maps of the same general area. We looked at a fire insurance company map of 1908 and compared it to a similar one of 1874 and 2011. As a group we split up the similarities/differences and thought about why the changes happened.  While looking at these maps one has to think why is it important and what messages are being conveyed through the several maps.  Why save maps? What help are they? What can we see through maps? These may be some questions that arise when thinking why to preserve certain artifacts over others.  What am I seeing? Why is this map different than this one? What is going on this area that cause so much change? More questions arise when you are trying to find the meaning of certain artifacts.  The point is archival research and preservation is a complicated process that not everyone is up to do.


Most of the more preserved writing of history is still worldwide phenomenon.  Take the great playwright William Shakespeare and think of his genius.  How did he lay his thoughts out? What did he research, and how?  How long did it take him to write lets say “Hamlet”?  These are all questions that may come up when thinking of maybe the greatest playwrights that ever lived.  When researching about someone like Shakespeare, one would love to know his original steps, his record keeping and even original notes or annotations.  This could well connect to our research at the Brooklyn Historical Society.  The way information is stored and preserved has changed over the years.  Organizations like the Brooklyn Historical Society are great with understanding the importance of originality.  If Shakespeare had worked or was affiliated with the Brooklyn Historical Society then maybe some of his works may be beneath everyone’s grasps.  Something like an ancient hard drive would be more than a precious artifact for the library.


When we think about the works of art around us, we don’t really always appreciate what we see.  The most amazing pieces of art in the world were started by an idea of a person of some lifetime and usually this person’s idea isn’t “preserved” or saved.  The beginning brainstorming ideas are just as important as the final project or maybe even more important.  When I think of some of the greatest artists that should be preserved in my lifetime, I can’t keep out people like J.K Rowling (author), Santiago Calatrava Valls (architect) and even Eminem (rapper).  These people without much argument can be seen as very iconic people of the 21st century.  Rowling definitely is not Shakespeare, but can very well be considered “The 21st Century Shakespeare”.  Her creation of the Harry Potter books have been a worldwide sensation for as long I can remember.  While her works might not equal maybe Hamlet, or King Leer, we can sort of say it does.  Being a worldwide sensation is not an easy task to accomplish.  For me if I want someone in the future to know about 21st century writing I will direct them to the Harry Potter books.  All of her ideas on how to write and what is writing a good book should be stored away for future generations to see.  What do you think writing would be like if we still had Shakespeare’s “blueprints” of his writings? It goes for the other two artists I have listed.  People like Santiago Calatrava Valls, and Eminem are in my opinion the best at what they do.  Being on top of your game should allow you to be an icon in the century you live in.  Calatrava is a concrete architect genius.  The same could be said for Eminem.  He is a rapping genius.  When future generations want to see evidence and preservation of the greatest artists of my time I want them to see these three people.  ”A memory should be remembered because the remembering of this memory is unforgettable.”  (Jeffrey)

The point is how do we know what should be saved.  In my opinion anything that shows and represents our society as a whole should be preserved as an archive.  When people in the future want to research anything about the 21st century they should have access to everything from music, literature, fashion, public newspapers ad etc.  A lot should be preserved but at the same time people should be able to interpret things on their own.  Nothing is set in stone and to some extent is a very good thing.  This open-ended feeling is there for us to use our minds and knowledge and not just read it off of a reference book or something.  We know there is more than just the first website we pass by while preparing for a research paper.  That is the hunger that should be bursting through us while wanting to know the real truth.  When something is set in stone, the answers are there for us and that’s it case closed.  Maybe the missing links, burns in a book, cracks in a hard drive are there for the researcher to fill with his opinion and support of knowledge.  The artifacts in the BHS are mainly hand written and sometimes very hard to read.  We also don’t have every single detail of every single piece of history, either.  The detail is not important but the thought of the missing puzzle piece is.  Knowing that theirs something else and being able to acknowledge that is just as important as the final revision of an essay.

The Brooklyn Historical Society is a great way to research documents in a first person kind of way.  The originals of many important documentation is present their at the library.  Artifacts of any sort are a great way to tap into the past to understand a concept otherwise not able to understand.  It was an exciting experience especially for my first semester in college.  I’m happy I was able to take this class and I think it would help me for the rest of my classes in college.






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Maps and beyond

On one of my visits to the Brooklyn Historical Society my peers and I had the opportunity learn from a maps specialist. After we entered the great reading room and signed-in, the historians directed us to gather at the perimeters of the reading space adjacent to the entrance of the room. As I walked towards the shelves I realized numerous large scale papers across them as well and on a few of the tables too. By my estimates each was about 24×18. In addition to the size I also noticed the colors, which varied from map to map, and ultimately gave me the impression that the times of documents ranged many decades apart from one another.

The map historian began with an introduction of herself and her specialty. Then she should the group maps of the subway system and the ones from the past. I was immediately intrigued by the maps especially because I myself enjoy collecting maps. Then we began to move down the perimeter and studied each map one by one. Another thing which caught my eye was the detail drawn on the maps. The most amazing thing was the fact this was all done by hand, and I wondered how long this might have taken whoever worked on these maps.

After we had gone through each map the historian layout for us and studied from each detail discussed in the group I was able to think about the importance of maps and the many purposes they serve. I realized maps were not only made to navigate around an area, but to also document the development of such area. In addition maps may also be used to showcase populations in sections, housing from industrial and so on. In regards to architecture maps serve a significant amount. Maps may be used as site analyzes, which is the study of an area in which it is to build. Site analyzes is the foundation of a design, so are other types of maps because they contribute to the site analyzes.

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Final Project: Achieving Change

Miguel L.

Final Project

English 1101 – Prof. Gold


The Earth has hosted many great thinkers who have made it a priority to make this planet a better place. These people have time and again been told their efforts would turn out to be worthless, but they persevered. They believed in their ideas and as a result their communities have benefited from that continuous effort and the world has to collectively. These men and women come in all shapes and sizes in other words they tackle issues at all levels from the large global epidemics to the smaller local community problems. It is perhaps their story of “wanting to change things for the better” that should be learned from and even better achieved.

This past semester I had the privilege to participate in an English course which included visits to the Brooklyn Historical Society.  I vividly remember the first time I went to the archive as I recall being confused while looking for the building, but once I arrived, that all changed.  When I entered I was amazed by the interior architectural details of classical Brooklyn and was delighted to see my fellow classmates who had just arrived a few minutes prior.  After I studied the lobby space and later the great reading room the historians discussed some of the content we were to cover on our visits with an emphasis on the methods to both primary and secondary documents.  One of such documents we reviewed in my group was photographs.  At first I thought the task wouldn’t be as thrilling as what the other two groups had done, but as we looked at pictures of the famous Brooklyn Navy Yard, workers from the first half of the 20th century, and ships I learned interesting techniques of understanding what the photographers intentions were.  I enjoyed this first experience, but what I did not know was this was the start of an interesting course that allowed me to question how are the changes of present day going to be archived for the generations to come.

One of the tasks that fallowed after the first visit was to write about some three types of documents, or artifacts we should save from a person in our generation.  In my post I wrote about the late Jan Kaplicky. I discussed how his ideas were as free as the wind and by that I meant not contaminated by others, creative, and most importantly open to change. He believed although some people are go out and are braking boundaries there is a large number that fails to welcome the creativity of change.  In his efforts to get approval for his design of a National Library in his native Prague he said “More importantly, there appeared unprincipled people, who were not suited for democracy…..This is a battle for culture…..There are far greater values at stack here…”  I also incorporated “Hamlet Literature in a Digital Age” by Matthew Kirschenbaum, “Funes, the Memorious” by Jorge Burgos as well as his essay “The Library of Babel” into my piece.  I first came to know about the international architect when I read his book “Confessions” which I proposed as one of the artifacts that should be saved.  As I read the book I couldn’t help, but feel I finally found a man who shared the same ideas and approaches.  Although he is no longer alive his ideas live on in many young architects around the world. His efforts, work, and beliefs are examples of a man who persevered and who was most notably known for questioning and saying “LETS CHANGE THIS…..”

Currently the most publicized issue in the world is the Occupy Wall Street. This movement which began in a few months ago has raised lots of attention both positive and negative. In my blog “Much needed improvement Mr. Protester” posted November 20, 2011 on OpenLab I wrote about some of these pros and cons of the protesters efforts. In regards to the cons I wrote “these protests have shown form of promise as a great positive, but the costs of the protest are beginning to be evident and the safety of the public is nearing boarder line dangerous.” This is true for the occupation has cost major cities across the nation a significant amount. In addition to the costs the protest has begun to get violent at times for instance the eviction of the protesters in Zoccoti Park were the movement originated, the pepper spray incident at UC-Davis, along with other occasions. These events have raised much attention which further explains how we think as a society, fight for our rights, preserver, current issues, and demonstrates the greediness of the 1%.

One topic we researched about at the Brooklyn Historical Society was the tragic event of the Brooklyn Fire a day in which Professor Vaidya joined us. At first I thought it was a fire which covered a significant amount of Brooklyn, but I later learned it was fire at the Brooklyn Theater in other words it was the Brooklyn Theater Fire of December 5, 1876. We got into depth when reviewing primary sources that followed the fire. In my group my peers and I examined some cost bills that had to be paid. Later in the course we looked at maps of the area in which the fire occurred. This coverage of the fire made me question in what manner or form will present day’s events is represented.

My most recent visit to the BHS was the final scheduled for the course. We learned about the journals of Gabriel Furman who lived in Brooklyn some one-hundred and sixty years ago which I wrote about in “Dear Brooklyn…what a world…..” Although he wrote about interesting topics such as diseases in particular the yellow fever and remedies I really enjoyed reading the letters in his primary sourced journals. I learned methods to figure out what difficult letters are and I also learned some of the standard writing was much different from today. I had a privilege to read and touch Furman’s actual journals which he wrote in as he roamed the streets of Brooklyn, which was its own city at the time. As I placed my fingers on the book I thought with today’s technology what physical primary sources will those who study us look at.

I find it perhaps awkward, uncomfortable, yet excited to know others might look at my work many years from now. They will seek to investigate how we are as people and our actions. Based on the fact we all now seem to rely on technology one why, or another I believe the archive system will get a huge face lift in other words it will stay the same, but change with categorization based on time in history. There is a great purpose to archives such as the Brooklyn Historical Society. One of such is its ability to introduce topics of the past to help use discover our future. Through this course I was able to question how our ideas will be preserved and what would be some of the content. The most important topics I hope is studied in the future are the ones society once labeled “the crazy ones”; the ones who “think” differently of the 20th and early 21th century such as Einstein, Dr. King, Gandhi, Jobs, Earhart and the other greats for I am interested in preserving that which moved the human raced to greater heights. Those are the types of people who I encourage others to study and learn from for they do not fear change because they are the change. I suppose since the BHS saves the work of Brooklyn that the work from today should be of those Brooklynites who made a difference in their communities throughout the Kings borough. It has been a privilege to have been able to visit the BHS and I hope it is for those who visit in the future to learn from todays changers.

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Final Project- Final Thoughts

Prof. Gold

December 18, 2011

Final Project

The visits to the Brooklyn Historical Society were always different and full of learning because it gave us some time off from being in a classroom and actually getting a hands on experience. We looked at books and many letters from people that recorded events in history. Most of the events recorded, took place in Brooklyn and the writers got every single detail that they could find out from people that were present at the moment of the event. One person that did this was Gabriel Furman, he had many diaries that held different events that happened during his lifetime.

The readings that we did there were all from really old books or diaries that historians kept for many years and were eventually gathered up by the BHS. We also read letters and other documents like receipts to find out roughly how much people were making back then. Reading is not all we did though, we also looked at many maps that showed different views of NYC and the ethnicities of people living here when the map was made.


Subway maps also looked very different before because there weren’t as many subway lines as there are now and it wasn’t very tourist friendly so people that weren’t from around here could easily get lost. It looks fairly plain and lacking information to help people get to their destination.

When you get a first look at the building from outside it looks older than the buildings around it. It has a different style to it than the newer buildings and one thing that shows this is the arched windows, something that buildings don’t have any more. The building also has carved heads on the side from people that no longer exist, so the building is pretty old. The whole outside of the building is brick which gives it an orange-red color. The color of the building makes it stand out because the other buildings around it are mostly gray or just glass. When you walk in, it looks very modern but when you reach the stairs, you get that smell of old coming from the wood that squeaks and makes loud noises when you’re walking on it. The library is on the second floor and I will never forget the rules before going into the library, take out a pencil (not pen) and sign in. The library had a very old look to it as well, the whole library was made out of wood and it all looked like it was the same color. All the shelves were packed with a bunch of books that all had their own story of how they got to the BHS.

The way history is recorded has changed over the years, before television and the internet people wrote the story down on a piece of paper and that piece of paper is the only evidence that we have now of an event that happened. In English class we read a story of a women telling a story that she read in letters that were being sent back and forth between two people. The letters were from Lucy Kolkin and her husband Alfred Kolkin that was in a war and the only way they could communicate was through these letters. While in the BHS we got to actually read and touch one the letters that they exchanged throughout this time in their lives. There are a lot of letter that they wrote to each other but to look at just one of those letters is like I was getting into someone else’s business and invading their privacy. I wouldn’t want anyone to look at what I write to other people but I guess it’s too late now that the internet has a record of everything.

This semester has been all about fire and disease and in the BHS we learned a lot about a fire that happened in the Brooklyn theater and we also learned about the diseases that struck NYC and made an impact on people. Some of these diseases killed a lot of New Yorkers and Brooklyn was saved at times because of the Hudson River that acted like a barrier for diseases from spreading throughout all of NYC. These diseases came from Europe and other places around the world in ships that imported goods. Trading was one of the reasons why diseases hit NYC and killed many.

What this semester was really about though was getting to know the history of people in Brooklyn and the people who enjoyed to keep this information in one place like the BHS. The people working at the BHS were always friendly and willing to answer any question that came to mind. They knew what they were talking about and they liked to help if a student needed it. The conversations we had during the time being there, were always interesting and kept the students engaged in the arguments that were being explained. These BHS visits weren’t just English class, they were a time apart from the actual school, like a small trip to place that that was rich in history and had a lot of different stories compacted into one spot. The library there has so many books that a lifetime wouldn’t be enough to read them all. If I had the chance to attend class there again in the future I would enjoy it a lot like I did this semester.


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Final Project – Building Construction and Fire

Adam E.

Final Project

English 1101 – Prof. Gold


This English class is the first course I have taken where English, reading and research have actually had a practical use for me. Before this course, I always saw English as an abstract subject that may or may not have real life applications. However, after the research at the Brooklyn Historical Society, I can finally see that English can be very important in our lives. On top of that, I have learned the value of archives; they are an ever-growing collection of facts from the past that can aid us in future decisions.

The consideration of fire is one of the most important aspects in planning for how we build structures and how we plan urban space. Very careful consideration has to be taken to ensure the survival and safety of those who happen to be caught near the fire.  Upon one visit to the Brooklyn Historical Society we were examining maps of before and after the Brooklyn Theatre fire and one thing I immediately noticed is that a lot of the maps before the fire, public space was very cramped; streets were thin, many, many buildings were all clumped into one small area. That creates a very large fire hazard, considering the majority of the buildings from that time were small, wood-frame houses.

Fire not only affects the spacing of houses but also the materials they are built from. Over time, materials and methods have developed to give occupants greater time to safely evacuate the building. One of the newer techniques that wasn’t really present in older buildings are fire rated assemblies. These are a certain method or technique to construct that aid in fire resistance. For example, if you build multiple layers of sheetrock around a structural component, (W Flange beam perhaps) about 45 minutes of strength are added to the beam for each layer of sheetrock. This is one thing that definitely wasn’t present in structures that were constructed around the time of the Brooklyn Theatre Fire. If you are able to successfully isolate structural components with these assemblies, your structure stands a greater chance of resisting fire for longer before it becomes unstable.

Assemblies aren’t the only way that you can fireproof a structure. Since the Brooklyn Theatre fire, construction materials have evolved tremendously. What started as small, wood-frame structures have grown into enormous conglomerates of fire-rated steel, glass and concrete. Fire alone didn’t shape that though, other factors, namely height contributed to the progression in materials. Steel for example is a much stronger (albeit expensive) material.  On top of that, steel can be made even more fire resist with a new type of fireproofing. A very common yet unnoticed way to fireproof is cementitious foam. This is a very soft (when wet), cotton-candy like spray that you apply directly to the component you want to fire proof. This being a new technology evolved from the needs of people who weren’t satisfied with how their structures were standing up to fire. Everyone has seen this fireproofing at one point or another; common places to see it are ceilings in parking garages, where the aesthetics take less priority than the function.

Fire hasn’t only shaped the way structures are built but on top of that, their ingress and egress patterns. Ingress and egress are the “fancy” terms for saying enter and exit; basically the traffic flow of a building. In a fire, every exit becomes a crucial point for those evacuating the building and too few exits or too many exits spaced too close can create potential danger for those trying to evacuate a structure during a fire. While my group was researching the Brooklyn Theatre fire we noticed that there were not many exits in the theatre. Contrary to today’s standards, these exit routes were constructed the same way as the rest of the structure: wood frame. Today, main exit routes are constructed to be held to higher fire resistance than other parts of the structure. While this may seem like common sense in today’s world, it was not present in the Brooklyn Theatre and due to that the fire either directly blocked the exits or caused burning wood to crumble in front of the exits, leaving most of the occupants trapped inside the theatre.

Along with ingress and egress patterns, fire has provoked change in other ways. In any large building, you will find clear, lit up signs pointing to the exit. In the event of a fire, these signs will light up. On top of that, should the power go out, each unit has its own isolated power source to ensure that the signs stay lit during a potential emergency. Along with clear exit signs are fire route maps. These maps are usually nailed or screwed into the wall and show where you currently are and a map to the nearest exit. In the event of a fire, non-elevator routes are shown to help you evacuate the building. None of these provisions were found within the Brooklyn Theatre. At the Brooklyn Historical Society, we examined pictures of the building after the fire and clearly these provisions did not exist based off how the ruins of the theatre looked.

Finally, parti-walls are a product of building technology being changed to help prevent fire. Basically, a parti-wall is not your typical wall. It’s entirely solid and for the most part, more fireproof than other walls. Its purpose is that in the event of a fire, the wall will be able to successfully contain the fire (because it runs fully through the cross section of a building) and keep it from spreading to other parts of the structure or even stop the spread to an entirely different structure.

Fire without a doubt has changed the way people think when it comes to how structures are built. There’s so many more options that exist today than in previous years. With all these options buildings have a higher chance of being stable for longer before collapsing. In a fire, every second that the building holds up is another second that can be used in safely evacuate the location. Fireproofing saves peoples lives, if our fireproofing techniques had not improved, we would have seen many repetitions of the Brooklyn Theatre Fire. Luckily, knowledge has grown tremendously since that time and it will only continue to get better.


Works Cited:

Vaidya, Sanjive. “Vaidya’s 1100/40 Lectures.” Construction Materials Lecture. New York City College Of Technology, Brooklyn. 2011. Lecture.

Allen, Edward, and Joseph Iano. Fundamentals of Building Construction: Materials and Methods. Hoboken: J. Wiley & Sons, 2004. Print.

“Party Wall.” Wikipedia. Web. 19 Dec. 2011. <>.



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Final Essay

Brooklyn Historic Society

Brooklyn Historic Society

Brooklyn has been a very diverse place for many decades. There is only one place that still looks back at in the most accurate sense of this borough and that is the Brooklyn Historical Society. My visits there have changed my thoughts and views of this little island. In terms of architecture, people and archival research.

Ever since reading Brooklyn Was Mine by Jennifer Egan i was convinced that her experiences will lead great ones of my own.


Lucille Kolkins letters

Jennifer writes about her experience with one Lucille Kolkins letter exchanges with her husband who is out serving his country. Egans emotions play a big role in her story, I can say that after reading Lucys letters myself i can relate to what Egan is saying in her essay. These letters really touch ones emotion because of the love that is invested both by Lucy and her husband in these letters. Egans essay not only includes the story behind these two people’s lives but it also shows her skill for archival research. Her use of the library database and such. Another archival researchers interpretation has given me a lot of information on how to properly “dig up” information.

Meg Norcia’s archive fever and her experience with ancient Civil war code letter has sucked me into archives. She like me experiences excitement and asks herself a lot of questions when stumbling upon something very old but new at the same time (to her). This type of hooking experience can change one’s life simply due to interest. Meg’s experiences and emotions have transferred into my life shortly after reading her essay. Every time I enter the Society all I could think of is the smell of the wood and its history, the pairs of feet that walked up and down those stairs and so on.

Being an undergraduate architect student the Brooklyn Historical Society has given me access to not only my favorite interest but has also given me very important information about the history of the field I’m studying. Numerous improvements happen throughout the 19th century which paves the way for modern and safe architecture. One very good example of catastrophes that happen during that period of time which change the lives of people and architecture for those future generations is the Brooklyn Theater Fire of 1876.

The events evolved like this: a local Brooklyn Theater sold out for a evening show which went all wrong half way into it. The kerosene lamps used to light the inside of the Theater caught on fire with the massive oil painting which then caught the curtains on fire. The actors where actually trained for situations like this and they tried to keep the crowd calm until the fire burst into flames and a panic attacked. The theater had 4 levels and the cheapest being up top.  Hundreds of people died due to the unprepared tragedy. I examined primary sources such as formal requests being sent to the organization that covered the victims and their families with a form of compensation. These letters contained various amounts of information. Some talk about how they can’t afford their relatives funerals and others talked about how they personally suffered and what they lost. Most of the letters had signatures of approval in the margins. The funeral receipts of victims are very expensive. These receipts contained information on how much of the funeral the organization covered. Some got full coverage and some got portioned coverage. After hearing about this event i myself had various structural questions. I looked at a map of downtown Brooklyn form that time period and a few questions popped into my head. The vicinity of the theater? the spacing between buildings around the theater, the map insists that there were not many. The Theater contained one exit. This particular event lead to occupancy limits, exit signs and proper amount of exits in a building depending on occupancy, parallel door locks in case of panic so people can push against one another and get out as well as better material evaluation and combination.



I recently read the Copyright and cultural institutions [electronic resource] : guidelines for digitization for U.S. libraries, archives, and museums / Peter B. Hirtle, Emily Hudson, & Andrew T. Kenyon. In discussion of copyrighting, a controversial issue is whether there is a chance of copyright infringement. While some argue that it is int, others contend that its a serious matter. Many institutions are creating web sites available to the public that allows users to view online exhibits, and other kinds of archives. The Copy right and Cultural Institutions, was created to help understand the law of copyrighting.

Archival research at Brooklyn Historical Society has opened up many levels of interest for me. Most importantly it has taught me a lot about how to research archives and how to develop your research from beginning to conclusion.  Since first visiting BHS i have been interested in variety of topics such as the Brooklyn Navy Yard and its diverse work force throughout the 20th century starting with men and transitioning to women during the Cold War. disease spread in Brooklyn throughout the past 200 years, Cholera for example which causes extravagant and brutal cramps, puking and diarrhea, with excessive water loss so quick and strong the blood thickens and the skin becomes pale, cholera can kill a human in a couple of hours. Chickenpox is another disease during that time period, although was less serious because a human could survive from it and various other diseases.

My visits to The Brooklyn Historical Society have been as remembering as the history inside it.

Work Cited

Jennifer Egan. Brooklyn Was Mine. River Head Books. New York 2008. Print

Norcia, M. Archive Fever: cracking the civil war code. Archive Journal. Web

Hirtle, Peter B. Copyright and cultural institutions [electronic resource] : guidelines for digitization for U.S. libraries, archives, and museums. Ithaca, N.Y. : Cornell University Library, Web c2009

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Final project, archiveing the present

This semester we began to look at how hazards to human life, primarily fire and disease. We used primary sources to see how Brooklyn expanded from a small shore side community and farmland into a dense urban center. By examining these documents at the Brooklyn historical society I found many congruences and distinctions between modern social interactions and past communications. The most common form of interaction for these people was written letters and printed text. All of this communication was physical, it could be preserved but losses its integrity over time.

Gabriel Furmans Ordered journals

We can preserve our present easily in comparison. The use of digital media means we can archive almost any form of modern media, on a digital platform. Beginning to set up archive servers with redundant internet sharing would allow this information to be well protected. It is also relatively efficient and will only improve; a new common hard drive size 1 terabyte has a considerable ability to store information.  “Consider this, one page of text takes approximately 2 kilobytes, giving you 500 pages for a megabyte, and 500,000 pages for a gigabyte, and 500,000,000 pages on a terabyte; this is about 1,000,000 big books. meaning that you could possibly have a million books in a hard drive smaller then most text books.” Archiving Today post. This excerpt from one of my blog post expresses a baseline amount of information storage available on the standard memory types. potentially the whole BHS could be onone hard drive that fits in your pocket.

small tarabyte hardrive

I believe it is  moral obligation for a previous generation to leave information regarding how things were for later generations. the existence of the internet means that these archive could potentially be available to anybody. For an archive to exist there needs to be people there willing an able to provide there information and there active participation to save it. The BHS was set up and organized by people several generations ago, with the intention that some of there time may survive, and somebody else would be able to see how they lived in the future.

Modern technology means we can expand what we commonly archive; we should archive everything. It would be easy for us to begin to back up digital news papers, news broadcasts, individual blog posts and real video accounts from YouTube and other means. This information would also need to available to anybody, with that could come a portions of interactivity and shared experience. With peoples active participation, post new achievable information of significance, and there responses to the information available would become a resource on its own.


google searching

The BHS was very limited in comparison to these modern methods of data storage but you can go back in time and give them computers so we will have to see how they lived with there technology. Imagine 50 to 100 years from now, when some student write about archiving and says that reading text is limited, when you can just beam information into your mind. I’m not saying this would ever happen but we should take an example from our past, we should save and document. Without documentation knowledge dies with its holder. the baseline level of expected knowledge is always changing, the availability of information is impressive; the ability to go online and do a “Google search” is remarkable. With out it I would not know nearly as much as a I do today.

A notable document from the BHS where the Gabriel Furman documents, they illustrated how much a little bit of participation could document. These condensed journals chronicle his time, “His first accounts where about disease, about how many had died, over 1500 in twenty days of a population of 15000. he offers another note about a cure for the disease from Calcutta, this cure called fore Cinnamon, 50 drops of laudanum (liquid opium), apparently this remedy was quite successful. He also reported that about other outbreaks around the world, even as far a St Petersburg. Having only read a few pages, I could imagine that the whole book must have a very large sum of important historical information.” Gabriel Furman Journals post. Doing so he attempted to document his life, be expressing what was going on around him. He does this methodically, his meticulously written journals account for so much surprisingly lacking mistakes; he accomplished his goals and we can still learn from him today. This shows how you can document peoples lives even 100 years ago.

The major limitations to modern technology is its dependence on both electricity, and insecure. You can’t discretely change a physical document, but somebody could theoretically hack and change most computer documents; just like real documents can be burned, and fade, a virus could corrupt that data permanently. there has always been a degradation of information and quality over time. We could devise redundancies into out system. By developing these methods we could minimize the risk of information loss. to imply that a computer file is fool proof would be a misleading. the technology can save a lot of information, but a failure could destroy this information archive in a heart beat.

Over all I would suggest that we continue to archive, I believe it is vital to understanding our past. Without it we wouldn’t understand the way people lived, its curious how people have always tried to record information for the future, how much we know about ancient civilizations that we found literally carved in stone. This desire to leave your mark, is so common, everyone wants a legacy. There is always something to investigate and learn from other people and what they leave behind is all we can study when there gone. By decoding the past we learn what to avoid in the future, we try to avoid the pitfalls of previous generations only to develop our own; perhaps one day others will learn from this post, and decide to further there archival desires.

Venture, Paris. “Archiving Today.” Open Lab Blog Post (2011). Print. Archiving Today post

Venture, Paris. “Gabriel Furman Document.” Open Lab Blog Post (2011) . Print. Gabriel Furman post

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