Ephemera Project is a bit of Village local history

BY TEQUILA MINSKY | The Greenwich Village Ephemera Project, initiated by the Jefferson Market Library, is about objects and their stories from our Village neighbors.

“The idea for the Greenwich Village Ephemera Project came out of our neighborhood oral history project, which started in 2012, and which has had a big impact on us at Jefferson Market,” explained Corinne Neary, the Jefferson Market branch senior librarian.

“When we would go to people’s homes to do interviews, we would often spend time looking at personal objects, and hearing the stories that went with them. Ever since, we’ve wanted to do something that highlighted these personal items, and their owners.”

A long-forgotten tin box stored in Westbeth’s basement that survived the flood from Sandy. Sculptor Milda Vizbar described the history of the box, sent from her aunt in Lithuania to her mother in Montreal. Swamped by the storm’s floodwaters, its contents of letters turned to mush, but its amber beads remained, carrying its history. Photos by Tequila Minsky

Jefferson Market Library staff members have been collecting objects since the beginning of the year, and a cabinet at the library has begun to fill with these story-evoking objects. A set of keys, an inscription and autograph by Patchin Place writer Djuna Barnes, and a class photo from a local school are among the collected items with colorful tales that go with them. Some objects, like bygone local restaurants’ menus and souvenir items, were just donated as ephemera Village historical items without accompanying narratives.

A set of cockpit keys belonging to Treso Koken, who was, at various times, a Bellevue E.R. nurse, a flight attendant and a personal assistant to the actress Zsa Zsa Gabor. Koken recalled being a flight attendant for the Flying Tiger Line — a U.S. cargo airline and a Cold War-era military charter operator — which carried Hungarian refugees to Australia’s Wagga Wagga, American troops to Vietnam and Korean orphans to the U.S. The aviation company went “gear up” in 1992.

At the April 1 opening reception, attended by almost 60 people, all of the objects and stories collected up to that point were displayed.

In a small display case in the library’s lobby, these objects are currently on view on a monthly rotation.

“Right now, it’s booked until September 2017!” said Neary. “We hope to keep it going in perpetuity; so people can continue to reach out to me if they are interested in the project.”

Djuna Barnes’s autograph on a copy of her book “Nightwood.” In her narrative accompanying this object, LindaAnn Loschiavo, a poet, journalist and dramatist, who formerly lived at 4 Milligan Place, spoke about meeting, getting the autograph of, and getting acquainted with her neighbor Barnes, who lived at 5 Patchin Place. Loschiavo ends her story with a pithy quote from Barnes: “Bohemia is a place where everyone is as good as everyone else.”

She also mentioned that she would like to do more public programs, which are very popular.

Meanwhile, local artist Lara Atallah is taking photographs of Ephemera Project participants and their objects.

“We hope to create a book about the project,” Neary noted.

Corinne Neary, the Jefferson Market Library’s senior librarian, led the Greenwich Village Ephemera Project. It looks like it’s going to be more than a “fleeting” undertaking — there will even be a book.










Kevin Curley’s contribution to the Ephemera Project was a photo of a P.S. 130 third-grade class that he taught in Chinatown in 1974. In his accompanying narrative, Curley, who formerly lived at 81 Bedford St., detailed his stint as a student teacher. He never set foot in a school again afterward, turning toward theater, studying acting and eventually becoming a playwright.
Menus and a souvenir photo — taken at El Chico — contributed by David Cohn, a collector of local ephemera. The photo of the Village Barn menu just shows its front and back cover, the latter boasting the talent to have performed there. Its inside pages feature mid-20th-century-priced fare, like the “Village Barnwich: Grilled Cheese Tomato and Anchovies” for $1, “French Lamb Chops, Double Thick” for $3.25, “Shrimps A La Newburg, Saratoga Chips” for $2.65 and “Prime Sirloin Steak” for $4.25. A shrimp cocktail was 75 cents, coffee a quarter.