Greenwood Heights

Green-Wood Historic Fund gets national grant

March 24, 2016 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Here's a hillside view of famed Green-Wood Cemetery. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

Grant Will Help Digitize Archives, Historic Collections

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) on Thursday announced that the Green-Wood Historic Fund has been awarded a $40,000 grant that will support the first and critical planning phase of digitizing the cemetery’s 177-year-old archives and historic collections.

The project, “Gone But Not Forgotten: Digitizing the 177 Year-Old Legacy of New York City’s Green-Wood Cemetery,” was among 248 NEH grant recipients.

Green-Wood’s institutional archives, some of which date back even earlier than the cemetery’s founding in 1838, comprise an immense collection of meticulous records and ephemera, all connected to the more than half a million individuals interred in the cemetery.  Yet, the majority of the collection has been seen only by a handful of cemetery officials.

This prestigious NEH grant will allow Green-Wood to convene a panel of carefully selected experts in digital technology, digital humanities, urban history, public health history and collections management to closely examine the archives and collections and to craft a creative, comprehensive and achievable plan to make them widely available beyond Green-Wood’s internal operations. 

“Green-Wood is extremely grateful to the National Endowment for Humanities for this generous grant,” said Green-Wood President Richard J. Moylan. “For the first time, Green-Wood’s extensive collections will be systematically evaluated by experts in digital technology and members of the academic community. Our goal is to make our collections more accessible and to encourage new scholarship, research and historical analysis.  Doing so will also strengthen Green-Wood’s position as a leading cultural and historical institution.”

Comprising the millions of archive records in the Green-Wood collection are:

  • Documentation of the cemetery’s founding, including original documents relating to the acquisition of cemetery property from prominent Brooklynites including the Bennett, Bergen, Wyckoff and Schermerhorn families, title searches, deeds and maps of Green-Wood’s subsequent land acquisitions.

  • Large-scale, hand-written chronological burial books, dating back to 1840 containing meticulously and beautifully recorded data, including cause of death, age at death, nativity and occupation. These records present an extraordinary resource to the field of public health history.

  • Architectural drawings and blueprints of Green-Wood’s mausoleums and other architecture.

  • More than 10,000 archival photographs documenting distinct changes to the condition of individual monuments over time.

  • Almost 200 oil paintings by notable artists who are interred at Green-Wood. 

  • An array of artifacts relating to Green-Wood’s permanent residents including a Whip car from a William F. Mangels (1866-1958) amusement park ride, art deco-style radios by the famed industrial designer Walter Dorwin Teague (1883-1960), a Tiffany-engraved invitation to Albert Bailey for the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883 and more.

The panel of experts is expected to complete its plan for the digitization of Green-Wood’s archives by April 2017.