The Perrys of Newport and the Brooklyn Navy Yard

Last week, Cindy and I spent our brief honeymoon in Newport, Rhode Island. Even though we were told to relax, how could we resist not doing a little bit of work while in the hometown of perhaps the most celebrated family in American naval history, the Perrys! We started our trip at the Naval War College Museum, which has many artifacts and exhibits about the famous Perry brothers, Oliver Hazard and Matthew Calbraith.>> Continue reading

Adams, Jefferson, and the Unlikely Founding of the Brooklyn Navy Yard

Two hundred and thirteen years ago today, the Brooklyn Navy Yard was founded, the last of the six original shipyards established by the US Navy. Today we celebrate the yard’s history of shipbuilding and innovation, and its continued importance to the economy of Brooklyn as an industrial park, but it almost never existed. Its founding in 1801 was rife with controversy, and around it swirled one of the central political battles of the early American republic. Today the Navy is one of the cornerstones of American power – possessing 10 of the world’s 11 nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and more than one-third of all the naval tonnage in the world, the US Navy is 3.5 times the size of its nearest competitors, China and Russia. But at the end of the 18th century, the American navy was small and, at times, a non-existent force. While it achieved some notable victories in the Revolutionary War over a far superior British adversary, by 1785, economic constraints forced the nascent republic to sell off the last of its warships.>> Continue reading

WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY Exhibit Reveals Brooklyn Navy Yard Stories of WWII

If you have not yet been to the Brooklyn Museum to see their stunning exhibition WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY, make no delay – the show closes on Sunday, February 2, when its three-city tour will also come an end.

Rather than arranging the works of journalistic, artistic, and combat photography by conflict or photographer, in this show they are instead arranged into thematic clusters that draw links between war’s common denominators through the ages.  Images range from the Crimean War of the 1850’s to present-day conflicts around the world.  And beside the images of fighting are those of the more mundane daily life in a war zone – “Camp Life,” “Leisure Time” – as well as the human costs beyond the battlefield – “Executions,” “POWs,” “Refugees.”>> Continue reading

USS Iowa: Brooklyn-Built Battleship Lives on in LA

Earlier this year, Cindy and I had the privilege of visiting one of the largest and most decorated ships ever built at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the battleship USS Iowa. Launched from the Yard in 1942, for more than a year she has resided in Los Angeles as a fantastic museum ship. Thanks to the wonderful hospitality of the Iowa‘s staff, we got an up-close view of this historic piece of Brooklyn handiwork.

When we arrived at the Iowa last spring, we were greeted by Dave Way, the museum’s curator. Over the course of two days, Dave spent several hours with us showing off the ship’s exhibits and archives, and even taking us around some of the areas of the ship that most visitors don’t get to see. Transforming the Iowa into a museum was a monumental task, and Dave has been part of this project for several years. Along with a core group of volunteers, he spent nine months living ins spartan conditions on board the ship up in the Bay Area, working tens of thousands to fix and clean the mothballed vessel. Once the work was done, the Iowa was then towed down to her berth in San Pedro, where she finally opened to the public on July 4, 2012.>> Continue reading

New York Times: A Return to Duty for the Brooklyn Navy Yard Hospital

New York Times, September 19, 2013

Streetscapes – Christopher Gray

The Brooklyn Navy Yard is known for its muscular collection of industrial architecture. Here, the battleship Missouri and other warships were built and repaired until the yard closed five decades ago. The regular weekend tours of the Navy Yard cover that and more, but at the end comes an unexpected treat: the magnificent, slightly sagging Naval Hospital, a ghostly marble temple built in 1838 and empty for two decades. A new plan may sweep away the cobwebs.

>> Read More

NYC Fleet Week Canceled, but USS Franklin Not Forgotten

The Brooklyn Navy Yard has been a place of refuge for much of its history. During its 165-year run as a naval shipyard, it did not just send ships down the ways and off to war; it took in ships in the most desperate, hopeless shape, and put them back into fighting order. During World War II, more than 5,000 vessels were steamed, limped, towed, and dragged into the safe waters of Wallabout Bay to be tended to by the 72,000 men and women of the yard.

Of all the wounded ships to steam up the East River, none were more so than the aircraft carrier USS Franklin.

>> Continue reading

NYC Museum Educators Roundtable: Oral History in a Public Context

Presentation at the New York City Museum Educators Roundtable Annual Conference // 2013

“Oral History in a Public Context: Fostering Human Connections with Broader Public Meanings”

This conference session, organized by Cindy VandenBosch, included case study presentations and facilitated small group discussions to examine how oral history can be used effectively in a variety of museum-based projects, from apps to place-making activities, walking tours to educational programs, as a means of fostering personal connections with the past, and with broader public meanings. The goal of the session was to allow participants to discuss the challenges and rewards of documenting and telling the stories of people and places that are not well documented, and of using both old and new methods and technologies to connect the public with those stories, and their contemporary implications. Presenters included Cindy VandenBosch, who discussed Turnstile’s project to record 20+ oral histories with vendors and neighborhood residents in and around Brooklyn’s Moore Street Market, and Andrew Gustafson, who discussed the use of oral history in the Brooklyn Navy Yard World War II Tour to not only tell the stories of shipyard workers and sailors during this time period, but also as a tool to elicit tourgoers to share their own experiences and family stories. The panel also included Molly Garfinkel, director of Place Matters, and Hanna Griff-Sleven, Director of Cultural Programming at the Museum at Eldridge Street.

Atlas Obscura: Realm of Wounded Soldiers: Abandoned Brooklyn Naval Hospital

Atlas Obscura, May 2, 2013

by Allison Meyer

Since it was decommissioned in 1966, the Brooklyn Navy Yard has morphed into a thriving center for independent industry and creative businesses, with many of its old military complexes and ship-building facilities being transformed into offices and studios. However, there are still areas of this massive area that once was a hub of naval ship construction that remain abandoned, and there it’s easiest to descend quickly into the Brooklyn Navy Yard’s history.

I recently visited the Navy Yard with Turnstile Tours, which offers a variety of tours at the Navy Yard, including one on World War II and one for photographers. Our final stop after an extensive exploration through the former military center’s history was one of those still-abandoned places: the Naval Hospital.

>> Read More

National Geographic Intelligent Travel: Hyper-Local Tours in NYC

National Geographic Intelligent Travel, April 4, 2013

by Rainer Jenss

[T]his very atypical tour was well worth the effort — for my family, and for others who want to dig a little deeper while they’re in New York. Best of all, if you’re in the city with the kids, besides maybe saving you some money, you won’t have to worry about finding a family-friendly restaurant and keeping the kids entertained – at least for one afternoon.

>> Read More

Navy Yard Manufacturer IceStone Uses Crowdsourcing to Recover from Sandy

We all know that glass is made of sand, but Hurricane Sandy was no friend to recycled glass countertop manufacturer IceStone. The Brooklyn Navy Yard tenant was hit hard by the storm, with their manufacturing and warehouse floor submerged by almost four feet of water, causing damage to their facility and materials. The East River water that washed through the yard stained valuable slabs of finished countertop, contaminated high-grade raw materials, wreaked havoc with floor-level electrical systems, and disabled the conveying and fabrication machinery. In addition, the heart of the company’s marketing campaign – hundreds of beautiful sample pieces and 2000 purpose-built sample boxes and intricately designed binder displays – were completely destroyed.

>> Continue reading