The life and times of James Street Commons, one of Newark’s most vibrant neighborhoods, is on display at the Newark Public Library through Dec. 14, a story told through a treasure trove of archives as well as video interviews with residents. “Bricks, Mortar, Memories and Pride: The James Street Commons Reconsidered” is a free exhibition that can be viewed during regular hours at the Newark Public Library, 5 Washington St., third-floor gallery.
This exhibition on Newark's first historic district focuses on the James Street Commons, but also tells “a larger history of the city,” says co-curator Robin Foster, a Rutgers-Newark Ph.D. student in American Studies. The exhibition is a project by the Rutgers Institute on Ethnicity, Culture and the Modern Experience (IECME) in Newark, and Rutgers-Newark’s American Studies Program, working with the Newark Preservation and Landmarks Committee, the James Street Commons Neighborhood Association and the Newark Public Library. The exhibition was co-curated by Dr. Clement Alexander Price, director of the IECME, and Foster.The exhibition also features a 23-minute video by Mark Papianni, comprised of interviews with several James Street residents. Papianni is a videographer with the John Cotton Dana Library at Rutgers-Newark, and an alumnus of the Rutgers-Newark’s Newark College of Arts and Sciences.
“The Commons is a vibrant, intensely self-aware Newark neighborhood, exceptionalized by the complexity of the downtown corridor in which it is located, by an array of venerable, close-by cultural, educational and civic institutions, and, most importantly, by the tenacious civic discipline evinced by those who live within its boundaries,” states Price, Rutgers Board of Governors Distinguished Professor of History. “Its history and its struggle to survive should be acknowledged, indeed savored, by all Newarkers and those who care about Newark.”
The project was more than a year in the making, according to Foster, who also is interim executive director of the New Jersey Council for the Humanities. She culled through archival materials at local sources, including the Preservation and Landmarks Committee, Newark Public Library, Newark Museum, and personal materials of James Street residents, as well as the National Archives in Washington D.C.
Price wrote the explanatory texts, while NPL’s Dan Schnur mounted all of the materials.
The exhibit was supposed to remain only through the summer but has proven so popular it was extended until Dec. 14 to allow schools access during the fall semester. Plans are underway to have the exhibition travel the state, once it leaves the library. “We want it to live on, and to share the story,” says Foster.
For NPL hours: http://www.npl.org/Pages/AboutLibrary/hours.html
For more information on the IECME: http://www.ncas.rutgers.edu/iceme
For more information on the American Studies Program: http://www.ncas.rutgers.edu/americanstudies