Necropolis group post – Laying the foundation

We were really feeling the pressure to find a partner site and on Tuesday I announced in class that I’d just spoken with the Zachary Erdinger, sexton of Shearith Israel, who is extremely interested in our project.  We both agreed that the small size of the second (11th St.) cemetery, its occupants, and its history, as well as the physical restoration underway, make it very suitable for a one-semester project.

Since then, the Mr. Erdinger sent us a large trove of materials relating to the second cemetery that the synagogue has collected in the past few years in the course of its restoration efforts. Most of these documents are from the early 20th C, but a few date back to the very late 18th C, and include everything from architectural renderings to documents pertaining to the reinterment of remains prior to street expansion.  The archive also includes portions of and references to some excellent secondary sources, which document the early history of the congregation and the cemeteries. Fortunately most of these are accessible through the Lehman College library, NYPL, and Columbia.  The reading material is piling up!

In the mean time, group tasks are on target: Davide has begun to catalogue the materials we were given (which I will also help with), and he found a beautiful 1830 street and property map via NYPL Labs that I am hoping we can adapt as a base map (with proper attribution). Tyler set up a GitHub repository for the project and a project Twitter account: @BNecropolis. I set up a public website on the CUNY Commons, Building Necropolis, that will document the development of Necropolis, and which we can share with Shearith Israel.  I’ve been trying to tweak social media options on the site so that posts will automatically go out on the project’s Twitter feed, but the CUNY Commons configuration may make this difficult. However, the project is now “following” a number of organizations and individuals on Twitter whom we hope will help us spread the word. The site isn’t complete yet, but the first post is up, as well as the project team page.  A more in-depth project description needs to be added on a separate “About” page.

We are in communication with Mr. Erdinger to arrange a site visit later in the month. Conn is working up a data collection form for our physical survey of the site and, at some point, of its sister cemeteries on  St. James Pl. (Chatham Sq.) and 21st St.