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Tenement Museum Asks Visitors to ID Subjects of Historic LES Photos

By Serena Solomon | February 27, 2013 3:08pm

LOWER EAST SIDE — Do you recognize these people?

That is what the Lower East Side Tenement Museum is asking local residents looking at historic photos donated to its library depicting street scenes of the neighborhood in the 1960s and 1970s. The photos, taken by the uncle of the woman who donated them, represent a push by the museum to collect the images and oral histories of mostly immigrant Hispanic and Chinese tenants who moved to the area after World War II.

"This was a terrific photo donation," said David Favaloro, the director of curatorial affairs at the museum, who is also a Hebrew Technical Institute Research Fellow.

Eva Silverman, a graphic designer who now lives in Los Angeles, donated the stash of 38 images to the museum in December 2012, according to Favaloro. Her uncle Allan Silverman, an amateur photographer who is still alive, took the photos from such perspectives as looking north up Allen Street toward the derelict bathrooms on Delancey Street, or facing southeast at cars exciting the Manhattan Bridge.

Other scenes depict a hall with what seems to be hundreds of people playing a game like bingo, Favaloro said.

"There are a lot of folks who were amateur photographers who took photos of the neighborhood and it was their hobby," he said. 

Favaloro said donations such as Silverman's photos are becoming more frequent as older generations pass away and relatives discover stockpiles of historical items as they search through their possessions. Eva also donated an oral history of her late grandmother Gladys, a Polish immigrant who moved to the Lower East Side in 1920.

"We are conducting research and thinking about the neighborhood's history and extending the story we are telling," Favaloro explained of the era following World War II.

The museum is hoping relatives or friends may recognize those in Silverman's photos and come forward to shed more light on the images.

"We have been interested for several years in building that part of the museum, particularly the photos," Favaloro said, identifying the historical documentation of the later half of last century as a niche the museum is seeking to fill.

Oral histories of those who lived in the neighborhood during that time are also being collected and recorded by museum staff.

With the Tenement Museum and other historical organizations have already amassed many historical artifacts and images, there is still a wealth of stories and photos detailing the era after 1945, according to Favaloro.

"We are really only beginning to get a sense of the neighborhood in that time," he said.

The Lower East Side Tenement Museum asked if people see something or someone they recognize or if the photos spark a Lower East Side memory they would like to share write to them at marketingadmin@tenement.org.