“Lockdown Staten Island” Documentary Premieres May 9

Join Public History Professor Susan Smith-Peter and Manhattan Borough Historian Robert Snyder this Tuesday in the 1P-Lecture Hall for the premiere of a project that will forever be embedded in the island’s history.

By Yasmine Abdeldayem

On May 9, the official documentary for the “Lockdown Staten Island” project will premiere in the 1P-Lecture Hall at 6:30 PM.

The project, spearheaded by CSI History Professor Susan Smith-Peter and her public history students, captures the tumultuous experience of the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown in a borough often forgotten. Submissions from Staten Islanders, ranging from videos to social media posts, were collected through Facebook and Journal of a Plague Year’s online portal.

Over three years after the lockdown, their efforts in preserving a pivotal stage of Staten Island’s history will be showcased this Tuesday.

“We’re doing it not just for historians, but for future Staten Islanders, who would want to know what was happening and what it was like for people going through this experience,” said Professor Smith-Peter. “That’s a really important part of what we do: helping to tell the story of Staten Island, not just to the larger world but to Staten Islanders as well.”

Professor Smith-Peter will walk the audience through the process of putting together the documentary. She will also be joined by Manhattan Borough historian Robert Snyder, who will discuss how the oral histories gathered by the “Lockdown Staten Island” project have contributed to his upcoming book on COVID-19 in NYC.

The documentary is structured in stages that reflect the lockdown’s unpredictable beginning to its end: disorientation, fear, scarcity, isolation, and resilience.

“I find the overall feeling of the video to be uplifting,” said Professor Smith-Peter. “It doesn’t shy away from the difficulties, but we can see how resilient New York really was. I still feel that when I go into the city now.”

All are strongly encouraged to attend the premiere and come together for a period of learning and necessary reflection to close out the spring semester. Refreshments will be served, and students can receive CC Clue credit for the event.

Those that are not able to attend in person can also register for the premiere over Zoom.

Professor Smith-Peter will also be inviting students from her past public history classes to attend and celebrate the culmination of a project that has now been years in the making.

“It’s kind of unusual to have a class where the project is something that a whole borough can come to, so I think that’s exciting. It’s part of what makes the public history program so interesting,” said Professor Smith-Peter. “The students are always working on things that have real-world impact.”  

While reflecting on the project’s conclusion, Professor Smith-Peter also considers what this documentary may represent for students whose college experiences were largely affected by the lockdown and the subsequent years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is something that I think would be really exciting for students whose whole college career was defined by this event, to be able to come to a premiere and see this experience reflected there,” said Professor Smith-Peter. “I have hoped to give a sense of closure. That was something we went through together; we’re on the other side.”

Learn more about the “Lockdown Staten Island” project here.

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