Muslims in Brooklyn

Muslims in Brooklyn muslims.brooklynhistory.org (MiB) is a website that harnesses the power of oral history to provide users with access to the stories of Muslims who live and work in Brooklyn, and who come from remarkably diverse communities and experiences. The site promotes listening as a tool for accountability and openness, and provides people with access to the history of Muslims in Brooklyn, going back to the 17th century, through the post-9/11 experiences that have shaped the lives of the narrators represented in this project. The primary audience for this online resource is teachers, but it is easily accessible to anyone curious about the content. The MiB site features 24 oral history segments integrated with an interactive timeline, a series of essays by scholars, stunning, professional photographs of the narrators, and neighborhood maps as well as a teacher’s toolbox filled with lesson plans and other supports for welcoming these primary resources into the classroom. 

Today, teachers everywhere are in particular need of socio-emotional learning materials that reflect diverse experiences. In our formative evaluation efforts, teachers were keen to bring these narrator’s stories of challenge, survival, and resilience into their classrooms to benefit and inspire especially the students from diverse communities. The Muslim in Brooklyn website was designed to work well under many common classroom constraints, including low bandwidth and limited access to computers: for example, sound files, timelines, and transcripts can be downloaded for offline use. Accessibility was also a key design driver; for example, in the selection of fonts, colors, and other graphics as well as the inclusion of descriptions for all images.

Despite the demonstrated need and broad set of user and accessibility requirements, The Center for Brooklyn History had a modest budget for designing and building the website ($30,000) and a strong set of requirements: A WordPress (WP) site, supportable by education staff members, that will live in harmony with legacy WP multi-sites. Howes Studio innovated an elegant yet low-cost solution, incorporating free or low-cost WP plug-ins such as the timeline and “storymap” tools developed by Knight Lab (https://timeline.knightlab.com/). Finally, the entire website was designed to be replicable, for other projects within the Center for Brooklyn History (CBH) or for another institution that might be interested in creating a similar project.