Oral Histories

We seek to not only witness the change taking place all around us, but also to record and preserve the history of our neighborhoods before that history is forgotten.

Our Streets, Our Stories

Since 2013, Brooklyn Public Library has made it a mission to collect and preserve the stories of older adults in our community. Originally started as a partnership between Outreach Services, Services for Older Adults, and the Center for Brooklyn History, the Our Streets, Our Stories archive has grown to include over two hundred interviews with Brooklynites and various many topic-specific oral history projects, such as our Brooklyn Jewish History Project, the Greenpoint Environmental History Project, and our Brooklyn COVID-19 Stories Project, among many others.

Interviews can last a few minutes or up to an hour, and are conducted by a staff member or volunteer at Brooklyn Public Library. After it is cataloged by our librarians, stories are made available online, and archived in our permanent collection under a Creative Commons license. To read the full release form, click here.

Explore our oral history map

Our oral history map collects stories from BPL's Our Streets, Our Stories. Search the map by clicking on a neighborhood, or type in a search term to find audio stories from every-day Brooklynites. To search BPL's digital collection for documents relating to these oral histories, or to download audio files of individual interviews, visit our catalog. You can also explore our oral histories on SoundCloud or Tumblr.

Center for Brooklyn History's oral history portal

The Center for Brooklyn History (formerly the Brooklyn Historical Society) maintains an oral history program that began in 1973. CBH’s oral history collections now include over 1,200 interviews. The collections provide a wealth of historical evidence about the lives of twentieth-century and twenty-first-century Brooklyn residents, and reveal how diverse individuals and communities have sought to preserve vital social, political, religious, and cultural traditions as Brooklynites, New Yorkers, and Americans. The collections contain interviews conducted in English, Spanish, Cantonese, and Mandarin, with narrators born as early as 1880.

To search the historical oral history collection, visit CBH's oral history portal.

Brooklyn COVID-19 Stories Project

During the first few months of the COVID-19 surge in New York City, we collected over fifty oral history interviews with teachers, parents, healthcare workers, kids, and everyday Brooklynites who lost loved ones to COVID-19. To listen to those recordings, click here.

You can also listen to our Borrowed podcast episodes "Stories from the Pandemic," which includes excerpts from oral histories in the collection, and "Missing Them," an exploration of grief during the pandmic, created in collaboration with Queens Memory Project and The CITY.