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Tracking Sandy: Monmouth County Remembers: Exhibit

As noted on the "home" page, the exhibition was open at the MCHA headquarters in Freehold from October 2017- October 2018.

Exhibit Curator's Statement

On October 29, 2016, the Monmouth County Historical Association (MCHA) announced that it would begin to document Superstorm Sandy’s impact on the County in advance of a major exhibition to mark the 5th anniversary of the Storm in 2017. This would be new territory for the Association, which does not usually interpret 21st century events. Furthermore, the Association had no existing Sandy collection. So? Well, in many cases, when the Association plans an exhibit, it pulls the photographs and artifacts and stories it needs from its existing collections. In this case, though, the announcement of the Sandy exhibit initiated a year of collecting photographs and artifacts and conducting oral history interviews in order to allow all interested parties, from your average Monmouth County citizen to scientists to the County Freeholders, to recall the storm in their own words.  


“Crowdsourcing” material in this way would, it was hoped, provide a platform for the people of the County to commemorate the storm on their own terms and allow us to tell a truly “Monmouth-centric” tale. As the authors of the 2017 text Museums in Motion write, “Crowdsourced content…provide much-needed service to our institutions and can result in deep and sustained engagement among…museum visitors.” For all its merits, crowdsourcing is an interesting beast. A curator must work with what they get, piecing together information, verifying stories, and identifying gaps as they move towards a cohesive narrative. 


That’s where I come in- I have experience with contemporaneous storytelling, crowdsourcing, and oral history. When the Association invited me to guest curate this exhibit, there was nothing to think about. It was an immediate “yes.” I’d wanted to help document Sandy through the eyes of those who lived it since my husband, a Brick Township police officer, first started issuing evacuation warnings in advance of the Storm. I never got the chance- and here, suddenly, it had found me.  


Over the past year, those of us involved in the exhibit have dispersed press releases, harnessed social media, utilized list servs, hosted open houses, and networked to try to spread the word about our project. We gave interviews to news outlets. The League of Historical Societies of NJ was kind enough to include our call for participants in their newsletter. What you see here represents just the beginning of MCHA’s efforts to create a long-term repository dedicated to the experience of those Monmouth County residents impacted by Sandy, from the Coast to the Turnpike.  


In the exhibit, we’ll take a look at things such as storm preparations, the science behind the storm, the role of first responders, community efforts, rebuilding, and how Monmouth County is preparing for future emergencies, weather related or otherwise. As you’ll soon see, we’ll invite you to literally leave your mark on the exhibit in a number of ways. If you haven’t yet contributed your photos, artifacts, or stories but would like to, just follow the directions inside to do so. Be sure to “know your [evacuation] zone” by the time you leave- because in addition to learning a bit about the past, we want you to leave the exhibit a bit better prepared for the future.  


5 years later, not everyone has rebuilt. Not everyone has been made whole. Not everyone is sure what Sandy means for the future. 5 years later, we as a County are still Tracking Sandy, and I am incredibly grateful to those that have helped us to do so thus far. 

 

Melissa Ziobro 

2017