Tag Archives: garbage

Check Out the DSNY Oral History Archive, Developed by Robin Nagle and Draper Students

Freshkills, March 2011 (Photo: Robin Nagle)
In spring 2011, Draper and Museum Studies students in Robin Nagle’s “Oral History, Labors of Waste, and the Value of Knowledge” class had the opportunity to launch a new online oral history archive unlike any other currently in existence–one which is dedicated to New York City’s Department of Sanitation and Freshkills Park. The oral history projects begun in this class have been collected into one website: the newly-launched DSNY and Freshkills Park Oral History Archive.

Over the course of the spring semester, students conducted interviews with individuals deeply involved with both the history and future of the DSNY and Freshkills Park. Interviewees featured on the website include current and retired sanitation workers and DSNY employees, spouses of sanitation workers, a former resident of Freshkills (before it was converted to a landfill), the administrator of Freshkills Park, and many others.
In the long term, Robin hopes that “the DSNY Oral History Project will have 100 voices from all corners of Sanitation life. Similarly, the Freshkills Park Oral History Project will have recollections from neighbors, workers and planners whose lives intersected with or continue to shape the Park’s future.” For now, the website marks a vibrant start to a project that will undoubtedly develop and expand in the coming years.
Check out the archive’s website to find out more about the motivation for the project, the narrators who shared their stories and experiences, and listen to full and excerpted interviews.
You can also read a recent article on silive.com about the project: “How Does Your Garbage Disappear from the Curb? Hear from the People Who Make It Happen.”

Robin Nagle, Talk at NYU (Dec 8): The Twist-Ties that Bind: Garbage, New York City and You

Draper’s Director, Robin Nagle, will be giving a talk entitled “The Twist-Ties that Bind: Garbage, New York City and You” next Wednesday, December 8th. The talk will be right around the corner from Draper’s office at 5 Washington Place. More information is below.


Freshkills Park Talks
The Twist-Ties that Bind: Garbage, New York City and You
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
7:00 p.m.–8:30 p.m.

Join Dr. Robin Nagle to learn (almost) everything you ever wanted to know about garbage in New York. Discover how profoundly it connects us to each other, to history, to politics, to infrastructure and technology. Hear stories and reflections from people who shoulder its burdens. Glimpse some of its surprising secrets. Consider why we need to ignore it, and ponder the consequences of its invisibility. The insights you glean might just change forever the way you see your city.

Dr. Nagle is the anthropologist-in-residence for the Department of Sanitation. She is also director of the John W. Draper Interdisciplinary Master’s Program in Humanities and Social Thought at New York University, where she teaches anthropology and urban studies. Her book Picking Up, about what it is to be a sanitation worker in New York and why you should care, will be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

This lecture is co-sponsored by the New York City Department of Sanitation and the John W. Draper Interdisciplinary Master’s Program in Humanities and Social Thought at New York University.

NYU 5 Washington Place, Room 101

Location Details:
Enter on the corner of Mercer St & Washington Pl.
Nearest trains: R to 8th Street, 6 to Astor Place

For more information — 212-788-8277 and/or doug.elliott@parks.nyc.gov

Robin Nagle talk at NYU Langone tonight

Draper’s fearless leader, Robin Nagle, will be giving a talk tonight entitled How Street Cleaners Saved New York City.

Monday, July 26
5:30 p.m.NYU School of Medicine, Smilow Multipurpose Room
550 1st Avenue (enter facility at main entrance–550 1st Avenue at E. 32nd Street; once inside, signs direct you to Smilow Multipurpose Room).

More info here.

Summer is supposed to be a quiet time at a university, yes? Not at Draper! We’re reading admissions files, finalizing new faculty hires, developing courses for the fall, and taking care of various other responsibilities that must happen between now and September. We’re busier than ever, which means that the coming academic year may be one of the most dynamic and exciting we’ve had in a long time. More on that as the autumn term nears.

And there are also, always, other tasks. I’m working on my book with feverish intensity. Called Picking Up, it asks a simple question: What is it like to be a sanitation worker in the city of New York today? The answer is fascinating (which surprises many people; go figure!). It lets me tell stories about history, about work, about time, and about how challenging it is to draw a boundary around a subject (that is, garbage and its labors) that always resists containment.

To see if the writing makes sense, I’ve given a few talks in recent weeks. It’s a good way to test-drive new ideas (does the audience think I’m crazy or wise? or something in between? How do I squeeze 300 years of history into a 45-minute presentation, anyway?) and meet people interested in the themes I’m playing with.

A talk I gave in early May, for instance, was in a venue new to me. The GEL Conference (GEL stands for Good Experience Live) collects thinkers, shakers, doers, inspirers (it should be a word) from various walks of life and asks each to speak on his or her expertise for no more than 20 minutes. I was honored to be included, and the event was a marvelous opportunity to learn from scholars, entrepreneurs, designers, artists, and educators whom I otherwise might never have met. There will be a link to a video eventually, but for now there are pictures of yours truly and all the other speakers on Flickr, here.

In early June I spoke at the New York Public Library, which is always a pleasure. I tried to jam a few centuries of history into less than an hour, in a discussion about the parallels between public health and trash management. It worked, sort of… The audience was attentive, patient, and asked many good questions, which helped me immensely.

Then last Saturday (June 20), I gave a talk at Freshkills Park on Staten Island (that’s Freshkills at the top of this post; I took the picture last March). It truly is one of the most extraordinary geographies in the world. I’ve visited many times, though knew it better when it was an active landfill. I loved it then and love it now. If you ever have the chance to take one of the tours run by the Parks Department, don’t hesitate. You will be dazzled and amazed…!