My favorite person in the early New York punk scene may be an eight-year-old girl.

Let me explain.

A large part of my research thus far has involved trawling the “vault” of PUNK magazine, whose website includes select scans from the magazine’s back issues. The one thing in the magazine that really grabbed my attention – more so even than John Holmstrom’s illustrated front covers – was a feature called “PUNK of the Month,” in which the magazine took submissions from readers who would explain, through often-sardonic claims of the ways in which they embody the punk rock lifestyle, why they deserved to be crowned punk of the month.

The submissions vary greatly from each other, each of them showing, through both text and layout, the unique style and temperament of the person who submitted it. There are huge disparities in tone above all else, with some “punks of the month” writing in a relatively calm tone while others went straight for the jugular with whatever cynical, shocking, and offensive statements they could come up with. The November 1977 PUNK of the Month, instead of submitting a photo, sent a “blood smear” (maybe fake; maybe not; who knows?) and proclaimed: “Here’s more of me than a picture could ever have.” (This particular submission also employed a non-reclamatory use of a homophobic slur, which just goes to show that even within what is meant to be an anti-establishment, anti-“ism” scene, you still come across a lot of “bro” types who just don’t Get It.)

Don't get in her way! Nellie

Nellie “Live Wire” in PUNK Volume 1 Number 12 (January 1978).

And then, on the other end of the spectrum, you have little girls who love Patti Smith and beat up boys with their hairbrushes.

I admit I was surprised to see eight-year-old Nellie the “Live Wire” in a publication that is known for lewdness, swearing, and all sorts of inappropriate content. I was much more surprised to see how indulgent the magazine was with her submission, captioning her challenging pose with “Don’t get in her way!” Too often do we see adult male fans of rock music – from hardcore punk to pop-punk to alt. rock to emo – dismiss the musical tastes of young girls and even attempt, both consciously and unconsciously, to chase them out of the scene. It’s incredibly important to see that, even from the very beginning, young girls have been fans of punk rock, and it’s important that the magazine that gave the scene its name is not ashamed to acknowledge that.

I hope to find a place for Nellie in my exhibit. I’m not yet sure where I could put her, but the girls of the punk scene are an important part of the development of the punk aesthetic and its journey into the mainstream, so this gem may not be a complete tangent after all.


PUNK Volume 1 Number 11

PUNK Volume 1 Number 12

To see the rest of the PUNK vault, click here.

Mapping Fever

Odyssey home page

My mom came the United States from Vietnam in 1989. She resettled in San Diego, California, where she worked three jobs on Adams Avenue. During her two-hour bus ride to and from work, my mom studied and memorized her U.S. naturalization guide. It included segments from the Constitution, history and meaning of the flag, and a map of the fifty states and their capitals. To keep me quiet during our commute, she recited and quizzed me on my U.S. state capitals. I remember looking at the map and absorbing where each state fell on the page. I closed my eyes and, for example, saw California’s lazy recline, Louisiana’s boot, Maine the shape of an oven mitt. The map helped me remember not only the states’ locations, but their capitals as well. I didn’t know it then, but maps would be a very important part of my historical training.

Of course we know maps guide us from one place to another. They help us visualize events and feelings. Military strategists plot violent operations on a map. In many public school classrooms, students press pins into states or international countries where they or their families are from or have visited over the years. These places of origin and vacation, as well as battlefields, summon associated emotions and stories about this, that, or the other. Sometimes we walk into a room and map where everything is. We map what’s missing or determine our course through the space, and in that sense, maps also function as catalogues, records, and indexes for the disappeared.

To understood the visible and invisible histories of Greenwich Village, I consulted the Odyssey mapping platform. Odyssey is an open-source tool that “allows [us] to combine maps, narratives, and other multimedia into a beautiful story.” Designed by CartoDB, Odyssey users create “projects” on their webpage. The projects contain “chapters” featuring found or user-created maps that can move across space, time, and themes. In each chapter, users upload their project’s content into what Odyssey calls a “Sandbox.” The Sandbox can include text, images, videos, music, and hyperlinks. Users can make as many chapters as they want. They can make the Sandbox as simple or as sophisticated as they want. Each Sandbox comes with a “markdown.” The markdown contains the necessary information for publication: title, author, presentation option, etc. Each Odyssey map can be viewed in slides, scrolling, or torque form. Users choose the form that best fits their project. Advanced users can incorporate Javascript or other HTML codes to amplify their project. When finished, users can publish their projects directly to their webpages or use the Odyssey iframe code to embed their project elsewhere.

Odyssey publish function

I first used Odyssey in Professor Jack Tchen’s “Chinatown & The American Imagination” undergraduate seminar during Fall 2014. Jack divided the class into five groups. Each group researched a specific block in NYC Chinatown. They created walking tours and in-depth biographies of the block’s known and subaltern histories. To demonstrate changes over time or document fascinating artifacts, each student group created an Odyssey map for their final. The Odyssey map made their subversive walking tours available online and, in fact, simulated the walking tour by taking the viewer on a visual journey. We’re currently culling all the student group maps and publishing them on a course site so interested teachers can implement Odyssey in their classrooms.

The results were quite spectacular. Though some students were hesitant at first, they found Odyssey incredibly easy to use. That, of course, is one of its merits. Odyssey’s clear instructions and visual guides make building projects smooth and troubleshooting streamline. Because it’s still in development, some functions remain rather shaky. For instance, it’s unclear how we can edit or expand Odyssey maps after we publish them. It’s unclear if there are ways other than copying and saving the raw code to another location in order to work on a project in multiple sittings. It’s also unclear if projects can be worked on simultaneously by multiple people on separate devices.


Above is an Odyssey example our students made. They examined the history of Chinatown’s Chatham Square. Landmarks, sounds, phantom highways, and political figures make their way into this project. A student even made her own video recording of a poem she wrote inspired by conversations she witnessed in the Square. The group overall really took advantage of the platform and inspired me to do the same on my project about queer Asian American life in Greenwich Village during the turn of the century. The importance of maps is that they present information in another way. While historians and researchers turn quickly to timelines and similar interactive features, maps aren’t widely regarded tools for visualizing, processing, and communication meaning of information. I argue maps can do the work we rely on timelines for. Imagine mapping events across time in the spaces they took place. Imagine showing human movement across space, in addition to time. It certainly takes historical scholarship out of the familiar realm of “past dates” and situates human events firmly within places, informing how we see and interact with them. I, in fact, cannot walk through Chatham Square without seeing, smelling, or hearing what the student group saw, smelled, and heard. My hope is in using Odyssey is to present sights, smells, sounds, and sensory details to people unfamiliar with Greenwich Village’s queer Asian American past and to trouble the ways that past continues to live in the present.

Finally, the nice thing about Odyssey is that its developers welcome suggestions to aid their building the platform. Please feel encouraged to use Odyssey in mapping your next project and send some feedback their way!

Washington Place has a distinctly nostalgic feel.  The block between Washington Square East and Greene Street is probably the closest New York University comes to resembling a suburban college campus, with violet and white flags flying on both sides of the street, and the greenery of Washington Square Park as a backdrop.  Many passersby are doubtless reminded of their own college days.  But the block also hints at something older.  The cobblestones that still pave Greene Street, and the architectural details of buildings saved by the Greenwich Village historic preservation movement, transport visitors back to the nineteenth century.  Conveniently, this is when the story of 27 Washington Place begins.

In 1842, Henry James, Sr. purchased a townhouse at 27 Washington Place.*  The birth of his first child, William, on January 11th of that year may have inspired him to find a more permanent home for his family.  However, James had rented in the neighborhood for several years.  He occupied a bachelor’s apartment in the University Building on Washington Square East in 1838, and then—with his new wife, Mary Robertson Walsh—moved to 2 Washington Place.  He knew firsthand that it was a good place for a well-to-do family to settle in New York City.  The former potter’s field at Washington Square had been transformed into Washington Parade Ground, a military parade ground that also served as a public park, in 1828.  Local residents strolled and children played there.  “The Row” of Greek Revival-style homes recently built along Washington Square North was one of the most fashionable addresses in the city.  Its wealthy residents included Mary’s family, in whose home Henry and Mary were wed in 1840. The closeness of 27 Washington Place to the studious atmosphere of the University Building may have also attracted Henry.  (The two buildings were only separated by one house, 29 Washington Place.)  He was a theologian who took his work quite seriously.  Perhaps he had enjoyed the university’s community of scholars and intellectuals as a resident, and hoped to continue to participate in it as a neighbor.

Detail from an engraving of the University Building by Robert Hishelwood, with 27 Washington Place visible behind it.

Detail from an engraving of the University Building by Robert Hinshelwood, with 27 Washington Place visible behind it.

Henry’s second child, Henry James, Jr., was born at 27 Washington Place on April 15, 1843.  Like many of his siblings, he followed his father’s intellectual bent.  Henry James, Jr. would become one of the most important Realist writers of the nineteenth century.  He spent most of his adult life in Europe, but looked fondly upon his childhood home from a distance.  His memories of his grandmother’s house on the Row inspired his short novel Washington Square, published in 1880.  Finally, in 1904, Henry James, Jr. returned to Washington Square.  He was not pleased with the changes that he found.  He shared his resentment in The American Scene

“The gray and more or less hallowed University Building—wasn’t it somehow with a desperate bravery, both castellated and gabled—has vanished from the earth and vanished with it the two or three adjacent houses, of which the birthplace was one. This was the snub for the complacency of the retrospect, that, whereas the inner sense had positively erected there for its private contemplation a commemorative mural tablet, the very wall that should have borne this inscription had been smashed as for demonstration that tablets, in New York, are unthinkable…but that we have only to reflect an instant to see any such form of civic piety inevitably and for ever absent.”

During Henry James’ decades in Europe, New York City expanded northward, and the neighborhood around Washington Square lost its suburban character.  The wealthy and fashionable residents of the Row began to move away.  Meanwhile, many of the immigrants who had fled famine, political and economic strife, and religious persecution in Europe constructed their own communities in neighboring areas of Greenwich Village.  Residential buildings around Washington Square were demolished or transformed into commercial buildings in which workers toiled for long hours at low wages.  Other buildings were subdivided into cramped tenement housing.  Even the houses on the Row became multi-family dwellings in the 1880s.

27 Washington Place was not immune from this change.  By 1894 Joseph J. Asch had acquired it, along with 23, 25, and 29 Washington Place.  Asch demolished the houses in 1900, four years before Henry James’ return from Europe, to make way for a ten-story commercial building.  When the Asch Building was complete, a pair of business partners named Max Blanck and Isaac Harris moved their factory to its eighth floor.  As Henry James glared up at the building that had usurped his birthplace, hundreds of immigrant laborers sweated at the sewing machines of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company.

The story of the fire at the Triangle factory has been told elsewhere.  It deserves more attention than I can give it here, but in short, these are the facts.  146 people died in half an hour.  They were mostly women, mostly Italian and Jewish immigrants, some as young as fourteen.  146 people who were trapped in a burning building by locked doors, a small elevator, a broken fire escape, and fire department ladders too short to reach the eighth floor.  Some victims fell from the windows.  Some jumped, rather than burn alive.

It is incredible, almost insulting, that the Asch Building survived the fire when so many people did not.  Yet it did.  The upper floors were rebuilt, and the building was renamed the Greenwich Building.  Frederick Brown acquired it shortly afterward.  New York University began to rent classroom space in the building in 1916, and in 1929, the Brown family gave the building to the university as a gift.  It is now called the Brown Building.  New York University students attend classes there daily, in a world that shares little with those of either Henry James or the Triangle Shirtwaist Company employees, except its location.

In The American Scene, Henry James bemoaned the lack of a physical historical marker at his birthplace to match the one imprinted in his memory.  There is still no historical marker for Henry James on the Brown Building today.  He is commemorated elsewhere.  However, there are three historical markers on the Brown Building at the corner of Washington Place and Greene Street, remembering the victims of the Triangle factory fire.  It is a small oversight, perhaps, but Henry James was one man who lived a full life of privilege and fame.  They were 146, poor and otherwise unknown.  How many times in history has the reverse occurred?

The historical markers on the Brown Building. Photo by Harmony Barker.

The historical markers on the Brown Building. Photo by Harmony Barker.

The history of 27 Washington Place serves as a case study in the changing character of Washington Square throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  More than that, it serves as a reminder that, especially in places where space is limited and populations are dense, history marches on.  Henry James might have wished for the Washington Square in his memory to remain unchanged forever, a monument to the great writer and his great works.  Likewise, a witness to the fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company might have wondered how the site of such horror could ever become anything else.  But the story of Washington Square, both joyful and tragic, continues to grow and change.

*The house was actually numbered 21 Washington Place when Henry James, Sr. purchased it in 1842, but the street was renumbered two years later.  For the sake of clarity, I have referred to the James house as 27 Washington Place throughout this post.


Thomas J. Frusciano and Marilyn Pettit, New York University and the City:  An Illustrated History, 1831-1996.  New Brunswick, NJ:  Rutgers University Press, 1997.

Luther S. Harris, Around Washington Square:  An Illustrated History of Greenwich Village.  Baltimore, MD:  Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003.

Habegger, Alfred.  “James, Henry.” American National Biography Online.  February 2000.  Accessed September 22, 2015.  Available online at http://www.anb.org/articles/16/16-00842.html.

Henry James, The American Scene.  London:  Chapman and Hall, Ltd, 1907.  Accessed November 9,  2015.  Available online at https://archive.org/details/americanscene00jameuoft.

“Henry James, Birthplace, Location of.”  Biographical Files; New York University Archives, New York University Libraries.

Administrative Papers of the Chancellor Henry Mitchell MacCracken 1884-1910; RG 3.0.3; Box 16; New York University Archives, New York University Libraries.

Records of the Office of the Treasurer, 1910-1963; RG 10.9, Box 47; New York University Archives, New York University Libraries.

Cornell University ILR School, “Remembering the 1911 Triangle Factory Fire.”  2011.  Accessed November 9, 2015.  Available online at http://trianglefire.ilr.cornell.edu/index.html.

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory National Register of Historic Places Registration Form.  Revised August 1986.  Accessed November 9, 2015.  Available online at http://focus.nps.gov/pdfhost/docs/NHLS/Text/91002050.pdf.

Imagine having access to every textile with a simple click of your mouse.  In today’s, world accessibility is a must – correction, digital accessibility is a must.  Recently, I attended the “Fashion: Now & Then” Conference at LIM College.  During the conference, presenters and academics shared their research findings related to fashion studies and history.  Many of the topics were similar, but one in particular stood out to me based on its relevance to our course.


When beginning any research assignment an individual usually starts off with a general search.  This search could be in the physical campus library or at home via their laptop. I always begin at my laptop.  I brew a cup of hot tea; throw my hair into a messy bun, fire up my laptop and get down to business.  Unfortunately, some types of research need a hands-on approach. You must go out into the public to find and work with primary sources.  I am a bit of a research romantic.  I enjoy handling treasures from the past. I also find myself appreciating the “non-hassle” research style of the Internet.  I believe that for certain research is it necessary to work with materials in person.

Research data bases and Online Archives such as Textile Hive challenge this ideal.  Many fashion designers and researchers find inspiration from the past or world around them.  Textile Hive is an example of an integrated archival collection.  An integrated archival collection starts as a physical or digital collection and then makes a transition to encompass both the physical and digital collections characteristics.  The Textile Hive boasts that its interface provides clear search, discovery and exploration experiences for its users.  I find it difficult to believe a digital format can provide the same rich experience as visiting a physical archive. I do believe that Textile Hive fills a gap in making more textile collections accessible.  Also, sometimes a physical archive must shut its doors.  A digital archive provides a secondary outlet. It allows an archive or collection to continue.  It is important to keep collections connected to people and to other collections.


Textile Hive began in 2009 when Caleb Sayan digitized the contents of the Andrea Aranow Textile Design Collection with the hopes to reach a more extensive audience.  Textile Hive’s ultimate goal is “to find a permanent home for the physical and digital collection with an educational institution, cultural organization, or other partnership to ensure that the collection be utilized, built upon, and preserved for future generations” (http://textilehive.com/pages/the-project).  Since I am studying to become an archivist, I appreciate their goal. I appreciate their goal because it focuses both on the physical and digital collection.

One of my favorite features of Textile Hive is their search capabilities.  According to Sayan, there are over 18 different ways an individual can search their site.  As a former teacher, I like that this site caters to various learners and allows for different search techniques.  For example, you can search by: technique, material, condition, pattern, embellishment, and gender, object type, etc.  Another cool feature is that you can compare two searches on the same screen.  This feature would definitely come in handy for anyone pursuing an assignment about cultural studies.


Besides providing a digitized image, Textile Hive also provides the necessary metadata and various informational videos. The videos explore topics like the historical context of the textile.  I was impressed with the amount of visual exploration tools. Visual archiving will continue to grow as a means to promote the digital nature of today.

Fashion and textile studies can provide powerful insight into culture, gender, political studies and much more.  I found the “Fashion: Now & Then” conference to be inspirational as I continue to gather research about Mid 80s Fashion here in the East Village, NYC.  There is much more to fashion studies than meets the eye.

Please explore Textile Hive to learn more:  http://textilehive.com/

Images are from http://textilehive.com/ and my personal Instagram

Sun Leung owned a “chop suey” restaurant at 782 8 Avenue in New York City. He and his cousin, Leon Ling, lived in separate apartments above the restaurant. Leon hadn’t come home in several days so, on the afternoon of June 18, 1909, Sun went upstairs to knock on his door. Sun smelled a foul odor and went to the West 47 Street police station. Officer John Reardon followed him to Leon’s room, where they found a woman’s corpse in a bound trunk. The woman was nineteen year-old Elsie Sigel. She lived on 209 Wadsworth Avenue in Washington Heights. Police suspected Leon murdered her, though Leon’s neighbor, Chong Sing, had also been missing. New York newspapers covered the “trunk mystery” on their front pages for months. Periodicals outside New York reported the impact Elsie’s murder had on their local communities. They deployed sensational stories about “the heathen Chinee” and advised against racial contamination.


Headline, New York Times (June 19, 1909)

Although Sigel’s murder remains unresolved, historians like Mary Liu have demonstrated its significance to the shaping of American culture. For example, the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act denied Chinese laborers entry to the United States. It made exceptions for only merchants and their families. Leon Ling had to prove his relation to the restaurant owner at 782 8 Avenue to gain American citizenship. He persevered difficult working conditions in a city carved with strict racial, gender, and sexual borders further concretized by the emergence of eugenics, capital, and overseas U.S. imperialism. “The heathen Chinee” became an “oriental other” against which White Anglo-Saxon Protestant society constructed its “occidental self.” White women like Elsie Sigel came under the occident’s protection. America demonstrated its greatness not only on the bodies of color it wiped out. It saw controlling white womanhood equally requisite in the project for global ascendancy. White women’s labor, desire, and virtue reflected the nation’s progress. Therefore, Elsie’s affairs with Leon, her Sunday school pupil, and other Chinese men held the public’s attention. Some accused the men of manipulating her. Others charged her for her own death. Not surprisingly, the speculations enabled state and non-state actors and institutions to re-carve the borders separating “us” from “them,” “good” from “evil,” “New York” from the “oriental other” that have lived and irreducibly shaped its economy, social order, and cultural identity since the colonial era.


Building where Elsie Sigel’s body was found.

The Asian/Pacific/American Institute at New York University has been working towards the recovery and preservation of these historical formations to provide us a more complicated perspective of New York City’s history since contact to present. In 2008, the A/P/A Institute launched the Asian/Pacific American Archives Survey Project with the Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives at NYU. The A/PA Archives Survey was the first systematic attempt to map existing and potential A/PA archival collections throughout NYC. Funded by the Metropolitan New York Library Council’s Documentary Heritage Project, the A/PA Archives Survey ameliorates underrepresentation and misrepresentation of East Coast Asian America in historical scholarship. It surveyed and acquired collections from community organizations and individuals into the Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, as well as the Fales Library and Special Collections. The collections are located in homes, offices, unions, organizations, and archival repositories available to the public. They contain boxes and boxes and boxes of programs, flyers, buttons, and ephemera materials from people society and archival institutions hitherto thought were unworthy of remembering.


A/PA Archives Survey Project website.

We access the A/PA Archives Survey Project through the A/P/A Institute website. The home page contains five links to learn more about the Archives Survey and its collections, staff, and contact information. On the right hand side, the first panel allows us to search the archive. Entering the keywords, “Greenwich Village,” we can search for A/PA materials relating to Greenwich Village. Our search yields two papers: the Yun Gee Papers and Cecily Brownstone Papers.

The year Leon Ling disappeared and Elsie Sigel’s murder captivated American public discourse, Cecily Brownstone was born in Plum Coulee in Manitoba, Canada. She grew up in Winnipeg and attended University of Manitoba. The fourth of five girls, Cecily left Canada for Greenwich Village in New York City after graduation. She found a duplex apartment in a Village brownstone. It had a spectacular kitchen. Cecily didn’t need that much room for herself, only her cooking and cookbook collection.

From 1947 to 1986, Cecily served as the Associated Press’ Food Editor. She published food essays, recipe columns, and children’s books across the United States and abroad. Parent Magazine and Family Circle also included her in their masthead, and during her downtime, Cecily helped President of Cuisinart, Carl Sontheimer, as a private consultant to the company and editor of Classic Cakes and Other Great Cuisinart Desserts (Hearst Books, 1994). Historian Heather Lee tells us that during this same time Chinese restaurants like the one Leon Ling waited at proliferated in light of Chinese Exclusion. The total number of Chinese restaurants across America was more than the combined number of McDonalds, Burger Kings, and Wendy’s establishments. This statistic reflected the ways Chinese merchants circumvented racist immigration laws to directed the transnational flow of U.S. capital back to their homelands. A Chinese restaurant was easily found in Greenwich Village as Cecily walked from the nearest train to her apartment. In fact, the possibility of her grabbing food to go from such restaurant and eating at home isn’t unimaginable either. “Chop suey” dominated U.S. fast food culture at the turn of the twentieth century. Cecily would not have only consumed or made some variation of the popular Chinese American meal. She corresponded with leading Chinese and Chinese American cooks and cookbook authors at the time as well.

And she did. Cecily’s papers include author files on Asian and Asian American cookbook authors like Madhur Jaffrey, Calvin Lee, Helen Chen, and Kay Shimizu. Clicking on the Archive Survey Project’s link to the Fales Library and Special Collections’ webpage for Cecily Brownstone’s Papers shows us that in Box 1 Folder 140, Cecily communicated with Yung-chi Chao Chen, author of the book, Harmony of Flavors: A Chinese Cookbook (China Color Printing, 1976). In the folder just before, Cecily has correspondence with Helen Chen, author of famous chop suey cookbooks.

The Fales Library and Special Collections’ webpage simulates an astute finding aid. The table of contents on the left side divides Cecily’s papers into thirteen series with an extensive summary of its description, biography, scope and content, arrangement, access points, and administrative information. Clicking on Descriptive Summary, for example, informs us that Cecily’s papers were collected between 1940, when she was 31 years old, and 2002, three years before she died at age 96. We also know there’s 30 records cartons and 14 document cases. The page provides names of the archivists who processed her collection, as well as the address for material reproduction requests.

From Jim Lee’s Chinese Cookbook to The People’s Republic of China Cookbook, Cecily collected A/PA peoples’ recipes—Chinese, Indian, Hawaiian, nothing eluded her authority. She reviewed them for The New York Times and, as NYT Editor Jane Nickerson testifies, Cecily gleaned massive audiences.

Neither the A/PA Archives Survey Project nor the Fales Library and Special Collection will link you to the exact documents. You can, however, use the finding aid to locate the materials you think you’d to see. Part of an archive, the materials organically reflect the Cecily’s activities situated within their appropriate spaces and times. They reveal the attention of food writers like Cecil weren’t simply concerned with WASP cuisine. Instead, Cecily’s inclusion of major A/PA cookbook authors and recipes show us that a marketplace existed for Asian/Pacific American foods in Greenwich Village during the Chinese Exclusion Act. Her letters to and from Yung-chi and Helen, for instance, demonstrate how closely connected the food universe was at that time. Cecily even collected works on tea drinking and spices, two ceaselessly oriental tropes permanently entrenched in the American imagination.

Moreover, in Box 7 Folder 22, right behind the folder containing information about proper tea drinking in eighteenth century America, is a facsimile titled “The Rules of Civility.” As a woman of WASP society in Greenwich Village, Cecily had to follow civil codes to maintain her position within the cult of white womanhood. These “rules of civility” were determined by the racial, gender, and sexual borders carved into the social fabric of NYC at the turn of the century. We see them in the “trunk mystery.” We see them here.

At a cursory glance, Cecily Brownstone might have little to do with the widely understudied histories of Asian/Pacific American peoples in Greenwich Village and New York City at large. However, looking closely, the materials articulate an alternative narrative complicating our misinformed understandings of Asian Americans in the metropolis. The A/PA Archives Survey Project brings together collections that further this enterprise for historical complication. It’s a stellar resource for archivists looking to “do history” different and historians attempting to revise familiar misrepresentations of our shared past.


The Documentary Heritage Project, Asian/Pacific/American Institute, New York University

Mary Liu, The Chinatown Trunk Mystery: Murder, Miscegenation, and Other Dangerous Encounters in Turn-of-the-Century New York (Princeton: Princeton UP, 2005).

John Kwo Wei Tchen, New York Before Chinatown: Orientalism and the Shaping of American Culture, 1776-1882 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1999).

There is no escaping it.

If you are going to do an exhibit on costume designer and Greenwich Village retailer Patricia Field, you are going to have to talk about Carrie Bradshaw, the character brought to life by Sarah Jessica Parker in HBO’s Sex and the City. No matter what level of research you may conduct on Ms. Field, from a light Google search to a deep dive into the archives of The New York Times, SATC and Carrie Bradshaw are never far behind, and understandably so. One of the most important reasons Carrie, and her friends, were so inspirational to viewers of the show was due in part to their unique style of dress—envisioned and realized by lead stylist Patricia Field from 2000 (the series’ third season) to the end of the show in 2004. While my exhibit will share in-depth thoughts on the “Carrie Effect” and the influence of Field’s lens on early twenty-first century fashion, this blog entry is about another important (and slightly more interesting) character on Sex and the City —New York City itself.

Dubbed by the city’s landmarks Preservation Commission as “delightful and interesting,” Perry Street, in New York’s West Village, is a tree-lined preserve for many historical buildings. All are residential, each more beautiful than the next. One of the most iconic homes on the block between Bleecker Street and West Fourth is No. 66.

Built in 1866 by architect Robert Mook, this Italianate style townhouse is not famous for being the home of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, first lady Eleanor Roosevelt or some other gilded name in Village history. Instead, it is known as the fictional home of Carrie Bradshaw. In the mid-2000’s, it was also home to busloads of tourists who crowded the stoop trying to relive their favorite SATC moments, cosmopolitans and all. While Carrie was supposed to live in a rent-controlled apartment on the Upper East Side (245 East 73rd Street to be exact), the 4000 square foot brownstone was the actual façade and location used in the show. Originally, the show was shot in front of 64 Perry Street, but the grander stoop of neighbor 66 won out as the favorite spot after three seasons. The setting for many memorable scenes in the show’s eight year run, the house is now listed as the 92nd place to visit in New York City on the blog 1000 Things To See In NYC. It beats out Magnolia Bakery (100 on the list), another Village location immortalized by a visit from Carrie and her friends.


In 2008, community residents won a campaign to stop Sex and the City tour buses from looping the neighborhood. If you Google the address, the house is actually blurred out on the map, rumored to be part of the $9.85 million sale by an anonymous buyer in 2012. The house was sold again in 2013 for $13.5 million and current estimates list it at $35 million.

The buses may have stopped years ago and the throngs of fans have dwindled, but the house still sits quietly behind a “no trespassing” sign hung over the front steps —a reminder of its famous past. Occasionally, especially on the weekends, you will still see a group of outrageously dressed, selfie-loving tourists stop to relive a Carrie moment. They come from all over the world, some wearing heels and tutus, to pay homage to their anti-hero, and unbeknownst to most, the influences of Patricia Field.


Shanahan, Gerry. The New York Times, September 9, 2007.

1000 Things To Do In NYC Blog

Curbed Blog


This semester, for the larger Greenwich Village History Digital Archive, I would like to contribute an online exhibition that examines the Subject of the Artist School founded by artists Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman, William Baziotes, David Hare and Mark Rothko at 35 East Eighth Street in Greenwich Village in 1949. These artists, who were all either associated with Abstract Expressionism or Surrealism, organized a series of lectures in order to convey the idea there was meaning in abstract art. It was this lecture series that endured after the school failed financially just a year after it opened its doors. Organized by professors from New York University, the series continued once the space became Studio 35.

My research is in its beginning stages, but it seems this project will be a bit of a challenge since the school is often unfamiliar even to art historians. In fact, the school has usually only been mentioned briefly in footnotes. However, I have been able to find a few scholarly articles using Worldcat and at least book, Artists’ Sessions at Studio 35 (1950), all of which contain rich bibliographies that will lead to me to other sources. Additionally, I will look through the 1949-1950 issues of the Education Sun, the student newspaper for New York University’s School of Education at New York University’s University Archives, as well as contune searching through the artist collections of the Archives of American Art. While visiting the Archives of American Art’s website, I discovered a few transcribed interviews with artists who speak about the school’s mission. At least one of these interviews is in the public domain and readily available to use in my archive. These interviews are incredibly valuable resources for my project because they describe who attended the series and what events actually occurred during the meetings. Similarly, these artists’ estates may have primary sources that can reveal further details about this short-lived, experimental venture.


New York University’s Bobcat database has been an essential tool during the beginning stages of my research.

By completing this project I hope I can not only contribute an online entry that fills a hole in the course’s Greenwich History Blog and Archive, which is currently lacking in entries and exhibitions from the 1940s, but I also hope to fill a hole in the art historical literature, which, at this time, contains more information about Studio 35 than the Subject of the Artist School. Sources are limited, but I hope to be able to determine why these founders initially came together, what ideas they hoped to convey, what methods they used to convey their ideas, how their philosophies compared or related to other artist-run schools the time, who attended the school and lectures, and ultimately what was the lasting legacy of the short-lived venture.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 78 other followers