Science & Technology

Exhibition Review: ‘Old Stone House: Witness to War’ Eloquently Blends Digital And Analog Elements

old stone house: witness to war
‘Take The Hill’ Board Game allows you to experience the dilemmas of being a soldier during the Battle of Brooklyn. (Photo by Donny Levit / Park Slope Stoop)

The British won. Again.

That’s because digital interactive designer Isaac Nelson and I were going head-to-head in a game of ‘Take the Hill’, a hands-on Battle of Brooklyn-inspired 3D board game. I chose the British side and successfully got to the top first.

Now it’s your turn.

old stone house
The Old Stone House is located at 336 3rd Street near J.J. Byrne Park. (Photo by Donny Levit / Park Slope Stoop)

Interactive experience is the featured element in Old Stone House: Witness to War, the brand new and intriguing permanent exhibition coinciding with Brooklyn’s Battle Week and the commemoration of the 240th Anniversary of the Battle of Brooklyn. The permanent exhibition opens Friday, August 26 (see details below) and the colonial cocktails will be flowing.

Speaking of flow, exhibition designers Carol May and Tim Watkins have created a spatial ground plan which allows the viewer to move throughout the first floor of the Old Stone House while experiencing a mix of both high- and low-tech interactive elements.

old stone house
A miniature of the Battle of Brooklyn (Credit: Etienne Frossard)

The digital and analog worlds carefully articulate the experience of the exhibition’s focus: to provide an opportunity to understand just what it was like to live in Brooklyn during the battle and ensuing British occupation from 1776-1783.

The facts of the British occupation are often shocking. For example, one out of three individuals living in Brooklyn were enslaved between 1776-1783.

In addition to being able to experience hefting a cannonball, viewers have access to sophisticated digital storytelling. The large-scale interactive Battle of Brooklyn provides a clear historical mapping of the war. The topography of the borough is exciting to view in the context of military movement and strategy.

old stone house
Credit: Etienne Frossard

The “miniature realities” are viewed through a variety of “peepholes,” allowing younger children to have access to the exhibits at their eye level. The designers and historians worked to effectively create a child-friendly experience.

The reading of the Declaration of Independence also serves as a highlight of the exhibit. Three versions are available, including a shortened version for children to hear — and that one is read by a child.

old stone house
Credit: Etienne Frossard

Viewers also have an opportunity to share their family stories and add to the oral history of the exhibition.

“As a public history organization, we want to create a relevant sense of place,” says Old Stone House Executive Director Kim Maier, “so our visitors understand the choices and actions that were essential to the founding of our country, and continue to be part of our lives today.”

The Exhibition Rundown: The Old Stone House: Witness to War – An Exhibit Exploring the Battle of Brooklyn and the Occupation, 1776-1783
When: Opens Friday, August 26. Colonial Cocktails and Snacks from the wood-fired oven from 6pm-8pm. Exhibition is permanent.
Where: Old Stone House, 336 3rd Street between 4th and 5th Avenues
Regular Museum Hours: Fridays from 3pm-6pm, Saturdays & Sundays from 11am-4pm, or by appointment.
How much: Free.
More information: Visit the Old Stone House website, or call 718-768-3195. email: [email protected]

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