A new book authored by a historian at the Port Washington Public Library, the 10th installment in the library’s Local History Center publication series, traces the commercial and cultural history of the Manhasset Bay area over 150 years.

A graduate of Queens College’s library science program with past experience in art history, archivist and special collections librarian Vanessa Nastro, who started working at the Port library in 2016, was intrigued by the photographs she found in the collection.

At about the same time, the library’s advisory council suggested creating an app to tell the history of Manhasset Bay using the collection’s images.

“We started looking through photos and we thought, ‘Okay if we do something digital, if we find the right platform, let’s just be ready and have the images and have the captions ready to go,'” Nastro said. “So we started doing through our digital files to see what we had handy. But I also started looking through our physical archive photos that hadn’t been digitized, that we kind of forgot about. So we started looking through there, and the more I kind of looked into all these photos, I thought, ‘Wow, this would make an excellent book.'”

In addition to featuring images that trace the Port area’s penchant for shellfishing, boatbuilding, sand mining, and hospitality, Nastro researched the human side of Port’s history by talking to residents about their own personal photos.

“They were so helpful to me,” Nastro said. “They invited me into their homes. They spoke to me for hours about their own personal photo collections about their own history. So basically, these were kind of unofficial oral histories that I conducted.”

The digital tour is also to come, in the form of an app that takes the user on a walking tour of Manhasset Bay and gives information about points of interest using a smartphone’s GPS system, funded by a gift of the Virginia Marshall Martus Estate and slated for release on Dec. 1.

“The idea was to publicize it as a tandem project,” Nastro said. “The app is on another level because we’re not limited to the length of a caption, and we can include more excerpts from our oral history collection.”

She adds that the Manhasset Public Library and the Great Neck Public Library were also “very, very helpful” in her research and that the book was not created by her alone.

“I did not research this book alone, this was a group effort,” Nastro said.  “I had people from other libraries helping me, lending me things from their own collection. They were not selfish about lending me stuff or giving me the information I needed. It’s a testament to like the library profession that so many were willing to help me and allow me to focus on the task at hand, which is putting together this great book.”

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