The Center for Brooklyn History was awarded a $105,500 grant from the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation to hire an archivist to help assist with recovering, organizing and increasing public access to the Center’s materials related to the history of Long Island.
Established in 2020 in partnership with both the Brooklyn Historical Society and the Brooklyn Public Library, the Center for Brooklyn History is one of the most expansive collections of materials relating to the borough’s history and houses items which have been collected over the past 161 years.
After an extensive renovation, the center, located in Brooklyn Heights, officially opened to the public in September of 2023 and, with the aid of the grant from the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation, is looking to further extend their accessibility.
“Since 2020, the Center for Brooklyn History is proud to serve the borough of Brooklyn as part of the Brooklyn Public Library system, but CBH’s history actually stretches back to 1863 with our founding as the Long Island Historical Society,” said Chief Historian Dominique Jean-Louis in a statement Tuesday. “Long Island’s people, artifacts, and stories shaped the earliest collections of this institution, and we’re thrilled that with generous funding from The Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation, we will be able to bring new access and understanding to these collections on Long Island’s history for a wide public audience.”
Among the Long Island historical materials housed at CBH are a collection of six ledgers kept by Long Island property owner and merchant, Henry Lloyd. The ledgers include records of financial transactions and accounts in the area from 1703 through 1744, including fascinating details of the management of the Manor of Queens Village, a 3,000 acre plantation in today’s Suffolk County which was owned and operated by Lloyd’s family.
“The Lloyd family’s history is incredibly complex; some fought for the American Revolution, others remained loyal to the British,” Jean-Louis said. “We are only just beginning to unlock and understand this family’s central importance to colonial encounters on this island, and digitizing the ledgers in our collection is a critical next step in expanding our knowledge.”
The Center is also in possession of records detailing the lives and labors of enslaved people living in the community including that of Jupiter Hammon, the first published African American poet.
The Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation was established in 1987 and works to support the study and conservation of New York’s history in honor of the late Robert David Lion Gardiner who was the 16th Lord of the Manor of Gardiner’s Island and was personally an avid amateur local historian. The grant funding will also make it possible for CBH materials to be digitized and made available for viewing for the first time, allowing not only scholars and academics to have access to these valuable resources but also for the general public to interact with these significant historical documents.
“The collections of the Center for Brooklyn History are a treasure for researchers of Long Island history,” said Kathryn M. Curran, Executive Director of the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation. “Founded in 1863 as the Long Island Historical Society they became the first regional repository of Long Island’s material culture, art and archives. Accessing the Lloyd ledgers will open the way for new research.”
To learn more about the Center for Brooklyn History visit their website here.