Cities for People, Not for Profit

As part of Cities for People, Not for Profit: Gentrification & Housing Activism in Bushwick, Cynthia is collecting first-hand stories from artists, activists, and community residents in the neighborhood and sharing their thoughts on gentrification/housing issues taking place in Bushwick, as well as documenting what community activism efforts have been like for local organizations such as Make the Road NY and RBSCC. Beginning in August 2014, she collected stories at Appalach-Wick, an experimental laboratory event in Bushwick that featured a group of like-minded local artists being asked to meet and create work in situ, but more importantly to interact with the hope that new connections and definitions of community will emerge. The goal is to archive and disseminate these oral histories in order to provide community members with resources on alternative housing strategies and community organizing efforts in the area.

WRI Voices

The WRI Oral History Project documents the history of the Welfare Rights Initiative (WRI), a grassroots student activist and community leadership training organization located at Hunter College. The aim is to examine, via these oral history interviews, social movement activity at the level of a grassroots organization as exemplified by the WRI, which was developed to aid student welfare recipients to become agents of social change and actively involve them with policymaking.

Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations

Cynthia worked as an interviewer for the Brooklyn Historical Society on the “Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations” project, which analyzes mixed-heritage issues, cultural hybridity, race, ethnicity, and identity.


octCynthia Tobar is an oral historian, media artist and archivist interested in documenting and preserving community-based stories of social justice and activism. She is experienced in oral history project design, digital project planning and implementation, including the development of metadata best practices, controlled vocabularies and taxonomies aimed at improving and maximizing information retrieval for digital content. Cynthia is adept at bringing together scholars, technologists, and artists to engage as a team in the planning and designing of open source, public history teaching and learning tool prototypes.

Cynthia has shared her extensive knowledge as an archivist, librarian, educator and oral historian at esteemed cultural heritage and higher education institutions such as the Center for Puerto Rican Studies (Centro) at Hunter College, the New York Public Library, Museum of the City of New York, Brooklyn Historical Society, Vera Institute of Justice and Pratt Institute. Currently, she is the Head of Archives at Bronx Community College, which is establishing its first Archive.  This new Archive will document the vibrant history and mission of the college: to expand opportunities in higher education for the diverse Bronx community. This will include planning for the collection of oral history interviews, documents, and images from the community, as well as promoting the use of this content to the public with the creation of digital humanities initiatives and collaborations with local community organizations.

Cynthia is the founder of the WRI Oral History Project, which is documenting the Welfare Rights Initiative (WRI), a grassroots student activist and community leadership training organization located at Hunter College. She has also collaborated with the Occupy Wall Street Archives Working Group, where she conducted life history interviews with OWS occupiers. Cynthia received her Master’s degree in Political Science from New School University and her Master’s degree in Library and Information Science, with a certificate in Archival Management, from Pratt Institute.

Research interests include:

  • Communication of Memory in Archives, Libraries, and Museums
  • Digital Archives
  • Metadata standards’ evolving role in the Semantic Web environment
  • Community-Based Oral History
  • Documenting Social Movements and Student Activism.

For more on Cynthia’s varied professional pursuits and interests, feel free to connect via LinkedIn.

Other current obsessions include running, travel, and cooking at home with her son and friends.

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