December 2016 Update:
Another year gone with the wind. Can you believe that we have been preserving SoHo memories for six years, since January 1, 2011? They have flown by so quickly, and we have accomplished much, but there is still more to do!
Before embarking on year seven of The SoHo Memory Project, I would like to take a moment to reflect on highlights from this past year.
In 2016, we took the SMP Portable Historical Society out fifteen times to various venues around SoHo, including Judd Foundation, The Drawing Center, The New York Public Library, and Vesuvio Playground to name a few.
Great press and social media mentions stirred up much interest in our interactive exhibit and I was invited to speak about this project to staff, curators, and students from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Sotheby’s, Princeton University, and NYU, among others.
This fall, Detour came out with “SoHo: Artists in Residence” a GPS triggered audio tour of SoHo that I narrate, and that also includes the voices of Roslyn Bernstein, Susan Brundage, Ken Hiratsuka, Brett Littman, Robert Morris, Barbara Rose, and Shael Shapiro. This one-hour tour takes you through the streets of SoHo while I point out little-known historical sites that are “hidden” in plain sight. I also tell personal anecdotes about what it was like to grow up in artists’ SoHo.
All in all, SMP had a very successful, public-facing year. Thanks to all of you who came out to visit with us in 2016.
A sampling of ephemera to be included in the SoHo Memory Keeper
(click on image to enlarge)
Looking ahead to 2017, I am pleased to announce that this January, I will launch a new digital initiative called The SoHo Memory Keeper, a (hi)storytelling nexus of resources related to SoHo (past and present, digital and analog) and a new digital model for preserving neighborhood history.
The Memory Keeper will be an immersive, interactive, digitally-based multi-media archive of resources on the artistic, cultural, social, political, urban history of the area that is now called SoHo, from colonial times through the present with a focus on the decades between 1960-1980, when SoHo was a thriving artists community.
A sampling of the oral histories to be included in the SoHo Memory Keeper (All excerpts produced by The SoHo Memory Project with interviews recorded by StoryCorps, a national nonprofit whose mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives.)
In addition to presenting stories and first-person accounts, the Memory Keeper will provide access to a wide variety of source materials including photographs, maps, municipal documents, academic papers, newspaper and magazine articles, artist archives, oral histories, books, websites, film and video. It will also serve as a prototype for use in other neighborhoods to preserve local history in a flexible and universally accessible format.
I’ve already begun digitizing and cataloguing the SMP archive, and I have also brought on a great technical team who will be building the architecture of this new interactive archive that will eventually replace this one and will provide worldwide access to resources related to SoHo. A designer will be brought on board once all of the back-end stuff is finished to create a dynamic and delicious interface geared toward use by the general public.
I am in the process of applying for grants to help fund this initiative, but to make up the balance, I am appealing to you, the many friends of SMP, to consider making a year-end tax-deductible contribution to The SoHo Memory Project that will ensure that the Memory Keeper will not only present SoHo history as never seem before, but will become a template that other neighborhoods around New York City can use to create their own Memory Keepers. An ambitious goal, but certainly achievable with your help!
Thank you for a wonderful year and I look forward to seeing you all in 2017!
When you click “give online now,” you will be taken to a donation page for the Uni Project and your contribution will be marked for the SoHo Memory Project. The Uni Project is a 501c3 nonprofit and serves as the fiscal sponsor of the The SoHo Memory Project, so your donation is tax deductible.
CROSBY STREET, a film by Jody Saslow (1975)
May 2016 Update:
It has been exactly one year to the day since I kicked off my Kickstarter campaign to raise start-up funds for The SoHo Memory Project. Thanks, again, to everyone who contributed. We have done so much in one year, and you helped make it happen!
SMP has had a busy winter and much has happened since my September 2015 update. Here’s the latest:
SoHo Stories: A Neighborhood Oral History Project
The oral history project we launched in partnership with The New York Public Library in January is in full swing! We’ve collected over 35 interviews thus far and are still going strong.
Thanks to everyone who has volunteered to be an interviewer and those who have shared their stories with us. If anyone else would like to participate in this program, please email me at email@example.com.
SMP Mobile Museum
The SMP Portable Historical Society began its residency with The SoHo Arts Network in January, thanks to a generous grant from the New YorkCouncil for the Humanities. So far, we have had wonderful visits at Judd Foundation, The Drawing Center, and The Renee and Chaim Gross Foundation.
Read a review of the SMP Mobile Museum in the Huffington Post here.
We still have two dates coming up when we will be on the street, no reservations necessary. Please stop by!
The Renee & Chaim Gross Foundation (526 LaGuardia Place)
Saturday, May 21, 1-4pm
Storefront for Art and Architecture (97 Kenmare Street)
Saturday, June 4, 12-4pm
The SoHo Keeping Society
This June and September, SMP will be visiting public parks around SoHo to collect items from community members that connect them to SoHo or somehow embody their own SoHo memories.
Items may include anything from documents to ephemera to photographs to 3-D objects. For example, you could bring us a coaster from your favorite local bar, or a set of keys to your first loft, or a hat you used to wear around SoHo that has long gone out of fashion. As long as you can tell us why the object ties you to SoHo, we will include it in our collection!
These items, along with their stories, will become part of our upcoming exhibition “The SoHo Keeping Society.” This ever-changing exhibition will be a jumping-off point to explore the myriad forms history and collective memory can embody and will foster an awareness that every community member is an integral part of its history.
Please visit us in June at the following local parks:
Vesuvio Playground (Thompson at Spring Street)
Saturday, June 11, 1-4 pm
Father Fagan Park (Sixth Avenue at Prince Street)
Sunday, June 12, 1-4 pm
Check back soon for September dates. We look forward to seeing your items for The SoHo Keeping Society!
This past fall and spring, students from Princeton University and The New School Parsons School of Design visited my studio to explore the SMP Portable Historical Society. I was also invited to present SMP and talk about interactive exhibitions at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYU, and Pratt where the audiences were very interested in ways we can make exhibitions more hands on and engaging.
SMP on Conversations with Allan Wolper
Last year, I was interviewed by Allan Wolper, former Editorial Director of the SoHo Weekly News, for his WBGO radio show “Conversations with Alan Wolper.” We talked about SMP, SoHo then and now, and what it was like to grow up in 1970s SoHo. The interview re-aired recently.
SoHo NYC Magazine
I have an article in last month’s SoHo NYC Magazine entitled “Red Light Go!” about the period when the neighborhood now called SoHo was New York’s red light district.
On Saturday, May 7 Hjordis Linn-Blanford and I gave a walking and listening tour of SoHo for Jane’s Walk, in honor of urbanist Jane Jacobs. Participants met at the NYPL Mulberry Street branch at 12:30 to listen to excerpts from oral histories and then we took a walk around the neighborhood.
Since January 2016, I have been writing monthly posts about the history of the Broadway corridor between Canal and Houston for the SoHo Broadway Initiative that illustrate the many ways in which this stretch of Broadway has long been and still is a vibrant mixed-use street with a long and rich history.
That’s all for now, but we have many exciting project in the works, including a film, podcast, audio tour, and a book, so please check back with us soon for more news!
September 2015 Update:
So much has happened since my last update, and it looks like we are going to have a great fall!
SMP is now a proud member of NYC Landmarks 50, an organization committed to informing and educating the public about historic preservation in New York City.
Find out about who is partnering with us.
July 2015 Update:
This month, I began adapting the design of The Uni Project’s Portable Reading Room to accommodate displays for The SoHo Memory Project Portable Historical Society. So far, so good, and if all goes well, we will be building it this fall and we will be deploying earlier than anticipated— in November 2015 instead of Spring 2016! If you know of a store, restaurant or public space in SoHo that might want to host us, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The recent article about SMP in The New York Times resulted in many new contacts, including The New York Public Library. SMP will be partnering with NYPL for a SoHo oral history project. NYPL staff will train volunteer interviewers in November and the program will officially launch in January 2016. If you would like to conduct interviews, please contact me at email@example.com and I will include your name on our list of volunteers. Please also email me if you know anyone who should be interviewed as part of this program.
The NYT article also resulted in new donors! I will use these recent donations to process the ever-growing SoHo Memory Archive. This fall, I will be actively collecting new material for the archive and I will also continue to catalog the collection with the help of consultants and perhaps an intern. If you have anything to donate to the archive, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From now through the end of summer, I will be meeting with many organizations to discuss possible partnerships. Please stay tuned for further updates on events and programming for fall and winter!