December 4, 2009 | Lehman College
The sweep of migration to the Bronx, from Jewish and Italian immigrants of the early twentieth century to Hispanic and African American families later on, is captured in a new website featuring vintage childhood photos digitized by Lehman’s Leonard Lief Library. Not only generations but also layers of emotion are depicted in the sixty-one vintage and contemporary black-and-white pictures—idyllic, Huck-Finn types of scenes contrasting sharply with ones both tender and tragic, such as a father kissing his beloved daughter at a homeless shelter.
The online project, called “Childhood in the Bronx,” has given new life to an exhibit originally shown at the Lehman College Art Gallery in 1986. Photographs of Bronx children are shown in schools, playgrounds, community centers and at play and amplified in some cases through sound clips that give background and context to the images.
“This exhibit gives visitors a chance to remember their own childhoods,” says Special Collections Librarian Janet Munch, who directed the project, which was released on December 2. “They also can see the borough in a different light from the usual media and government reports.”
The vintage photographs date from the early decades of the twentieth century and came to Lehman through a Bronx oral history project, housed in the Library’s Bronx Institute Archives. The contemporary images were produced by photographer Georgeen Comerford and span 1983 to 1986.
This project was funded by a $10,000 grant from the Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO).