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High School Students Put Together Exhibit on Brooklyn's Sugar Industry History

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There is a lot of attention right now on the sugar business in Brooklyn, with an art installation drawing thousands to the former Domino plant, and now, those who want to understand the history of the industry can visit a new exhibit put together by an unusual group of curators. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

With the cathedral to the Brooklyn sugar industry, the Domino plant, set to be torn down and replaced by condos, the rich, bittersweet history of the borough formerly known as America's Sugar Capital is on display at the Brooklyn Historical Society.

With photos, uniforms and descriptions of the working conditions, the exhibit answers many of the questions raised by the popular Kara Walker art exhibit on display a few miles away in the actual Domino plant.

What makes the Historical Society exhibit unusual and remarkable is who made all of the decisions, from which artifacts to include to what the title should be to even the color of the background wall. A group of high school students was behind it all.

"It's a museum studies after-school program," said Emily Potter-Ndiaye, director of education at the Brooklyn Historical Society. "So the students come in and learn all of the aspects of curating a history-based exhibit, with our education department, our library staff, professional graphic designers, exhibit designers, installers, the works."

The nine students, all who happen to be girls, come from a mix of high schools in the area, both public and private.

"We've all became friends in the process, and it's been really nice to meet people from different schools, too, which is sometimes hard to do," said Ella Dyett, a 10th grader at Packer Collegiate.

For months, they've met at the museum to work on the exhibit.

"They absolutely make the choices. Sometimes they make choices we wouldn't make," said Deborah Schwartz, president of the Brooklyn Historical Society. "Part of the idea is to help them be rational about the choices they make. How are they telling a story, how do objects tell stories. These are things that are very different from classroom learning."

The opening of the exhibit, which will be up for six months, drew many of the curators' friends, including one with a particularly famous Afro and soon, a Gracie Mansion address.

As for future visitors, the students hope they learn about sugar but also about hard work.

"If you have the will and the drive to do this, and the resources, you can accomplish this thing that seems kind of far-fetched for 11th graders," said Monika Zaboklicki, an 11th grader at Brooklyn Tech.

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