Melting Metropolis

Selections from Handling the Heat Photography Exhibition at Queens Central Library 2023.
Photos: Man with Radio on the Boardwalk, 1984, Lefrak City Pool, ca. 1975, Toddler Girl drinking from water fountain, 1941

How hot is your summer? Share your stories and photos here.

The Melting Metropolis team worked with Queens Public Library’s Collection Development Department to create this list of recommended summer reading.


Summer heat has long ushered in a season of outdoor fun in New York City. It is a season of open fire hydrants, ice cream cones, and days spent at Coney Island and Rockaway beaches or Astoria Pool. But summer heatwaves can disrupt urban life and negatively impact community health and wellbeing. As part of a larger exploration of urban heat in post-1945 London, New York and Paris, this study explores histories of urban heat and health. This team is working with the Queens Memory Project to reach local audiences in Queens and to have a preservation partner for the work products and crowd-sourced archival donations coming from the project’s outreach and programming efforts.

This project seeks to deepen understandings of climate justice and experiences of urban climate through engagement with affected communities and historical sources. The following questions motivate Melting Metropolis: How have city dwellers responded to formal (i.e. public health, municipal) policies and practices related to heat and health? How have they embraced heat and sought to protect themselves from it? How can a historical perspective on heat can inform current or planned interventions into improving urban health that go beyond “resilience”?

Beginning in 2023 and running through 2028, researchers will work with Queens Memory and Queens communities.

  • Archiving
  • Oral History
  • Workshops
  • Dr Christopher Pearson, Historian, University of Liverpool, United Kingdom
  • Dr Kara Schlichting, Historian, Queens College, City University of New York
  • Dr Laura Balderstone, Historian, University of Liverpool, United Kingdom
  • Dr Shelda-Jane Smith, Geographer, University of Liverpool, United Kingdom
  • Bryony Benge-Abbott, Research Artist, University of Liverpool, United Kingdom

Activity Timeline

February 1


June 17th - August 4th

Photography exhibit at Queens Central Library: Visual materials from the Archives at Queens Public Library highlight how New Yorkers have kept cool and had fun in summer.

July 14th

Handling the Heat event at Queens Central Library: Participants can join researchers from Queens College, CUNY, and the University of Liverpool, and THE CITY's Open Newsroom to share their thoughts about summer in New York City and share memories and attitudes towards urban heat and summertime in Queens.

July 21 & 22
Two sessions of a 90 minute creative drawing walk around Queens led by visual artist, Bryony Benge-Abbott. Participants will be guided through a series of simple, mindful drawing exercises that explore our sensory experience of heat. The tour will explore the local area, engaging breath, touch, sight and sound through experimental mark-making. At the end of the walk, participants will have a collection of abstract drawings reflecting their bodily experience of the city.

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