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Share Your Memories of Hell's Kitchen in the NYPL's Oral History Project

By Maya Rajamani | July 8, 2016 2:37pm | Updated on July 11, 2016 8:54am
 The Columbus Library at 742 10th Ave., between West 50th and West 51st streets.
The Columbus Library at 742 10th Ave., between West 50th and West 51st streets.
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DNAinfo/Mathew Katz

HELL’S KITCHEN — Local residents will have a chance to share memories of the neighborhood as part of a New York Public Library project this summer.

For two weeks starting next week, the NYPL’s Community Oral History Project will be asking community members to share their first recollections of the neighborhood and their stories about living there.

For the first time in the project’s history, nearly 20 high school students — most of whom are from Hell’s Kitchen, Harlem and Washington Heights — will be conducting the interviews, said NYPL manager of outreach services and adult programming Alexandra Kelly.

Her department is collaborating with the High School Innovation Labs Program on the project, she said.

“[Students are] learning all about what makes an oral history interview different from other interviews [and] how to ask open questions,” Kelly explained.

“People are signing up to share their stories with them, and the students are getting to learn about Hell’s Kitchen by meeting people throughout the neighborhood,” she added.

The approximately 30-minute interviews will vary based on what individuals hope to highlight about their experiences.

Students will also be walking around the neighborhood conducting impromptu “vox pop” interviews with residents who haven’t officially signed up to share stories, she said.

The Upper East Side, Washington Heights and Greenwich Village are among the neighborhoods the project has documented so far.

“That theme of change is something that’s come up in a lot of oral history projects, and I guarantee it’s going to come up in Hell’s Kitchen,” Kelly said.

Residents interested in getting involved can email oralhistory@nypl.org or call 212-621-0552.

The teens hope to conduct interviews — which will be posted to the Community Oral History Project’s website — with 15 to 20 people, Kelly said.

“But if more people are interested, great,” she added.