BPL names chief scholar at Center for Brooklyn History

BPL names Dominique Jean-Louis as the chief historian for the Center for Brooklyn History.
BPL names Dominique Jean-Louis as the chief historian for the Center for Brooklyn History.
Photo courtesy of BPL

The Brooklyn Public Library has appointed a new chief historian for the Center for Brooklyn History, who will serve as the institutional scholar for Kings County lore. 

Dominique Jean-Louis, a writer and historian, will oversee the creation of exhibitions and programs at CBH, while collecting and preserving the stories of Brooklynites.

“I am overjoyed to be taking on the role of Chief Historian of the Center for Brooklyn History at the Brooklyn Public Library. I have long been impressed with the many achievements of this Center, I have had my research shaped by its vast collections, and I really admire the talented individuals who have made it such a leading city institution,” Jean-Louis said in a statement.

Linda E. Johnson, president and CEO of Brooklyn Public Library (BPL), said the team is thrilled to make this announcement.

“Dominique Jean-Louis’ vision to share history as a means to empower and strengthen communities has never been more important as we witness an onslaught of book bans, censorship, and disinformation,” Johnson said. “We are thrilled to welcome her to the Center for Brooklyn History at Brooklyn Public Library.” 

Jean-Louis formerly worked as an associate curator of exhibitions at the New-York Historical Society where she collaborated on projects that unpacked topics of race, equality and justice. 

“To me, the best part of this new position is that I’ll be doing history within the system of a public library. As a public historian, part of your job is to connect the stories and lessons of the past with a broad audience,” the chief historian said. “It’s a rare opportunity to be doing this work within a network of more than 60 branch libraries that are already deeply embedded in their neighborhoods.”

“My whole career, I’ve seen firsthand how history truly can bring people together, and I can’t wait to learn from, and take part in, the many ways Brooklyn shares and celebrates its beautifully complicated history.”

Heather Malin, director for the Center, says Jean-Louis’s former work in bringing historical context to a modern world will be vital to CBH’s education approach.

“I am thrilled to have Dominique in the critical role of chief historian. Recognized as a leader in public history, her approach is inclusive, multi-disciplinary and rooted in making history accessible to diverse audiences. Her expertise in museum education will be vital as we reinterpret our landmark building and welcome more visitors than ever before,” Malin said.

As a part of the library’s network for over 60 neighborhood branches, CBH works to make the diverse history of the borough accessible to all. 

The center, formerly known as the Long Island Historical Society, was founded in 1863 in an effort to honor the area’s past as it was quickly changing, according to the CBH website.

Center for Brooklyn History appoints lead historian.
Center for Brooklyn History, the borough’s appoints lead historian. Photo courtesy of BPL

In 1985, the institution changed its name to the Brooklyn Historical Society and established itself as both a museum and educational center.

In 2020 BPL added the organization to their network and renamed it The Center for Brooklyn History. CBH now includes the library’s collection of Brooklyn Centric books, dated newspapers, images and memorabilia. 

“Together our institutions hold important collections of material, manuscripts, and artifacts, vital to our shared history that we are committed to make accessible for everyone,” BPL President Linda Johnson said after the merger.

The Center’s landmark location at 128 Pierrepont is currently closed for renovation and plans to open to the public in September of 2023. Visitors can still access its archives at the Othmer Library by appointment only.

For more coverage of the Center for Brooklyn History, head to BrooklynPaper.com.