In 2011, the Prison Public Memory Project began its work in the historic old river town of Hudson, New York in the state's Hudson River Valley. We’re collaborating with community members and local organization partners to document, interpret, present, and create public dialogue around the intriguing history of the prison in Hudson – a prison that since the 1800's has affected thousands of lives and influenced the course of local, state and national events. Unlike Eastern State Penitentiary, Sing Sing and Alcatraz, the history of the prison in Hudson was largely unexamined and unknown.
The Hudson prison’s history holds significant meaning for contemporary debates about penal reform, child welfare, juvenile justice, the roles of architecture and design in rehabilitation, and the roles that race, gender, income and immigrant status play in determining what is a crime and what kind of punishment is appropriate.
We've conducted, transcribed, and edited many oral history interviews with Hudson area residents, including prison 'alumni'. We collaborate with local citizen historians and scholars from across the country researching the prison in local and state and national archives. With help from many people who work and live in Hudson, we've discovered dozens of fascinating old photos, letters, maps, and institutional records. And we're fortunate to have many talented writers contributing articles, stories, and poems.
In Hudson with a population of roughly 7,000 people living within two square miles, and its surrounding county, we've partnered with the local library, radio station, historic preservation organization, county historical society and council on the arts, a social justice organization, local food businesses, and the prison itself on several community engagement events including illustrated lectures, story and photo shares, a 'participatory reading' program, a workshop on primary source material, pop-up museums, art installations, and public dialogue. We also co-hosted an 'alumni' picnic on prison grounds bringing together people with direct ties to the Hudson prison with local visitors, scholars and tourists from across the region.
Taking the story of Hudson to a broader public, we redesigned our website in 2014 to reach a greater diversity of viewers and accommodate our expansion. We created and continue to expand an on-line archive of images, documents, interviews, and stories about the Hudson prison. We enjoy a high rate of public engagement about the Hudson prison on our Facebook page. In 2014, we launched Twitter and Instagram feeds, presented some of the work we've done in Hudson at an international conference at Rutgers University, and began work on a digital curriculum for high school and college-aged youth on women, girls and mass incarceration. With others, including representatives of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, we acted as consultants to the Cooperstown Graduate Program in Museum Studies on a national model for using oral history to engage communities with social issues.
In 2015, we have made even more progress. We conducted and transcribed more oral history interviews with people who worked or were incarcerated at the prison and published stories based on these interviews on our website. We also collaborated with a local newspaper on an excellent feature story published in March about the history of the Hudson prison’s gatehouse and its keepers.
In July, with some of our scholar collaborators and our wonderful summer college intern, we designed and executed a series of three outdoor pop-up museums about the prison in three different neighborhoods of Hudson which were very popular with the community.
Throughout the year, we provided advice and technical assistance to the Greene County Council on the Arts on an art exhibition which opened in September showcasing the existence and power of creativity behind bars, an unprecedented subject for an art exhibition in this region. With a local artist and a former teacher at a juvenile detention center, we also participated in the development of a specific art installation in that show which focused on films, photographs and artwork made by young men at a Training School School for Boys in Orange County, New York in the 1970’s. Plans are afoot for that exhibition and installation to travel north and south in 2016 and 2017, so stay tuned!
In October, 2015 we co-hosted a standing-room only talk at the Hudson Area Library by a local scholar on the history of street children in America, a moving performance by a local spoken-word poet, and a fascinating community dialogue about homeless youth yesterday and today. Also in October, using some of the oral history interviews we have collected in Hudson and photographs contributed by church elders, we produced a 15-minute video for the Shiloh Baptist Church on the history of the Black community in Hudson and the Hudson prison when it was the Training School for Girls. We presented the video at a well-attended and powerful event celebrating the 100th anniversary of the church. With that video we also launched the Prison Public Memory Project Youtube Channel.
Finally, in 2015 we launched the Hudson Prison Memory Project, a permanent site of prison memory in Hudson, NY, with a grant awarded by Grinnell College to PPMP founder Tracy Huling and Hudson Site Coordinator Brian Buckley. We invite you to stay tuned for more details on the Hudson Prison Memory Project and join our exciting journey in Hudson in the years to come!
In the midst of the nation’s first great depression that began in 1873 with the collapse of the New York City financial markets, the House of Refuge for Women was built in Hudson, 30 miles south of the state capital of New York in Albany...
In 1904, when the New York House of Refuge for Women in Hudson, NY closed, the New York State Training School for Girls took its place to establish a separate place of confinement for “incorrigible” girls between the ages of 12 and 15...