Brooklyn Navy Yard: Past, Present and Future

Review

of an Exhibition

by Charissa Ruth

Published on March 24, 2015, Modified on March 29, 2015

  • Description:

    BLDG 92 is the educational outreach for the Brooklyn Navy Yard, a space that has been part and parcel of the transformation of Brooklyn, New York, and the United States since the Colonial Times. The main exhibition in BLDG 92 is “Past, Present, and Future” which tells this story of the evolving United States starting in the late 1700s. The exhibition is spread out over three levels and shows a broad range of interactive and interpretive techniques: videos, photos, text, newspaper clippings, touchscreen, objects from the collection.

    The exhibition begins with a timeline rich in dates and events important in the transformation of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. It also gives context to the changing world in which the Brooklyn Navy Yard was situated. Information about events and movements are chunked into small bites, and are complemented by photos, artifacts, sound bites, and anecdotes about real people who lived during different chapters of Brooklyn and the USA’s history.

    The rest of the exhibition goes on to elaborate the timeline, exploring the founding of the original Navy Yard, the change the Brooklyn Navy Yard underwent as the USA industrialized in the 1800s, and the tumultuous ups and downs of navigating between peacetime and wartime in the 1900s.

    The Brooklyn Navy Yard had always been a great source of employment for the Brooklyn community but in the mid 1900s the Brooklyn Navy Yard shut down due to its inability to compete with newer technologies. However, the community rallied and after several attempts the Brooklyn Navy Yard was finally re-transformed once again. The new space now features many different companies who employ heavily from the community.

    My favorite section was the gallery “Yard Work: People and Products”. As you walk into the room, to one side is a floor to ceiling display of photos from people who work at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Nestled among the photographs are several video stations. Visitors can control when and which videos they watch with a floor pad with control buttons similar to a remote. Each video station contains several videos and among the videos and photographs it is very clear that there is no typical kind of person who works at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, a true representation of Brooklyn itself.

    Many times similar information was covered in several different formats making it more accessible to different kinds of learners. Instead of being stale and repetitive though it added to the overall understanding and aided in the synthesis of the information and overall theme.

    What was the most refreshing was the intersection of so many kinds of techniques used to tell the story of the Brooklyn Navy Yard in the context of change in America. This was truly an exhibit designed for many different learning styles and is a great example for historic sites and museums to learn how to present history in a way that shows the links between the past and present. I could easily see myself bringing my students here for a field trip.

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