In 1995, the staff of the Education Department at the New-York Historical Society began teaching seventh grade students in schools throughout New York City about Seneca Village. As a basis for their lessons, they used The Park and the People: A History of Central Park by Roy Rosenzweig and Elizabeth Blackmar. The students and their teachers were excited to learn about a part of New York City's history that wasn't written about in any of their textbooks. Students liked it because it was "hands on"--they looked at real objects, took walks in the park, examined maps, and so on. They also liked it because they were asked to think about something and encouraged to do research.
In January 1997, the New-York Historical Society opened an exhibition called "Before Central Park: The Life and Death of Seneca Village." It received rave reviews. Grady T. Turner and Cynthia R. Copeland co-curated the exhibition, and Carol May and Tim Watkins of May & Watkins Exhibition Inc. were the designers.
Since the opening, thousands of people from all over the world have learned about Seneca Village. Those who could not visit in person read about it in newspapers and magazines. There are now walking tours that include the Seneca Village area. Diana Wall, Associate Professor of Anthropology at City College, and Nan Rothschild, Professor of Anthropology at Barnard College, have begun a preliminary research project to determine the feasibility of proposing an archaeological dig.
The New-York Historical Society, the New York Public Library, Office of Young Adult Services, and the Institute for Learning Technologies at Columbia University are creating this website as a way to expand knowledge about Seneca Village to a greater audience of students and interested people of all ages. We envision a site where students can actively study the village by accessing and using the primary and secondary sources made available. Primary documents will include the New York State Manuscript Census for 1855; birth and death records; church registers and records; newspaper articles; political cartoons, drawings, illustrations, photographs, and maps. Many of these will be interactive, so that students can query the data directly.
All the images included in the site are the property of the New-York Historical Society unless otherwise indicated.
For more information, Susan Lowes at the Institute for Learning Technologies.