Images: Opening image taken by Anna Mulé.

On Wednesday, January 21, 2015 Chistopher Mulé gave a Brown Bag Lunch presentation at the Bard Graduate Center entitled “Troubling the Water on Staten Island: Superstorm Sandy and the Preservation of Place.” Mulé is the Folk Arts Director at the Brooklyn Arts Council (BAC), the Vice President of the Board of Directors for the New York Folklore Society (NYFS), and formerly served as Director of Folklife at Staten Island Arts. In his presentation Mulé described his work on Staten Island to record oral histories from Staten Island residents who survived Superstorm Sandy. The National Storytelling Network sponsored his research.

During the project, Mulé worked with four communities: Traditional Storytellers & New Americans, First Responders & Sandy Survivors, Working Waterfront, and Community Led Organizations. Mulé set out to learn about collective knowledge about living by the water and how public folklore dealt with this environment. He sought to understand what it means to live by the water and how this relates to Staten Islanders’ sense of place.

In the second half of the presentation Mulé shared audio clips of several of the interviews that he conducted with Superstorm Sandy survivors. The interviews revealed the stories and struggles of Staten Islanders who wrested with their sense of place, relationship with their home and sense of being at home after the storm and of Staten Islanders who used traditional knowledge to negotiate their relationship with the water.

Staten Island Arts and Naomi Sturm, their current folklife director, are now managing the project. The finished project will be archived and made available as a website and recordings of the interviews will be distributed to Staten Islanders who participated.