Is November New York State History Month?


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Is November New York State History Month?

Section 57.02 of the Arts and Cultural Affairs Law says that it is:

57.02 New York state history month

1. Each month of November following the effective date of this section shall be designated as New York state history month.

2. The purpose of this month shall be to celebrate the history of New York state and recognize the contributions of state and local historians.

3. The commissioner of education, through the office of state history is hereby authorized to undertake projects to recognize New York state history month. Such projects may include the creation of an essay contest for state residents who are enrolled in any elementary or secondary education program which shall reflect upon the importance of New York state history. Any project or projects created pursuant to this subdivision may, in the discretion of the commissioner of education, authorize non-monetary awards to be given to project participants or project winners as such commissioner may deem appropriate.

A section of the State Museum’s web site explains that it was initiated in 1997 and notes annual events through 2002. What happened after that? Are there events or activities this year to commemorate it?

Readers of New York History: Historical News and Views From the Empire State see continuous evidence of the vibrancy and creativity of the state’s history community. But when it comes to “celebrate the history of New York state and recognize the contributions of state and local historians,” we can do better. Here are three possibilities.

One, ask Governor Cuomo to issue a proclamation next year recognizing November as New York State History Month, support his “Path Through History” heritage tourism initiative, and organize regional history consortia to cooperate with, and propose initiatives for funding through, the state’s Regional Economic Development Councils.

Two, develop a case statement on The Value of New York State and Local History that makes the case for stronger history programs, more support for officially designated local government historians, teaching state and local history in the schools, heritage tourism, and the role of history in public life.

Three, draw selectively on practices of other states. For instance, Texas celebrates Texas History Month. The New Jersey Historical Commission has solicited public suggestions for celebrating the state’s 350th anniversary in 2014. “Throughout the year, a 52-week ‘This Week in New Jersey’ online and public television series will showcase the people, stories, achievements and progress that have defined an eventful 350 years.” The Commission has defined three themes for the celebration:

Innovation: The world has been reshaped again and again by people from and things created in New Jersey. From Edison’s light bulb, to the Atlantic City boardwalk, to the first intercollegiate football game, to Frank Sinatra and Count Basie, New Jersey’s innovations and innovators have had an impact around the globe.

Diversity: By virtue of its geography and population, New Jersey is in many ways a microcosm of the U.S., with numerous national themes playing out within the state’s boundaries over the past 350 years.

Liberty: New Jersey played a pivotal role in the American Revolution, participating in more significant military action than any other state in the new nation and establishing a tradition of distinguished military service that continues to this day. New Jersey’s commitment to the cause of liberty was further demonstrated when it became the first state to ratify the Bill of Rights in 1789.

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Bruce Dearstyne

About Bruce Dearstyne


Dr. Bruce W. Dearstyne of Guilderland. Dearstyne is a former professor at the College of Information Studies, University of Maryland, where he is now an Adjunct Professor.

Before joining the Maryland faculty, he held positions at the New York State Archives and the Office of State History. He is the author of Railroads and Railroad Regulation in New York State, 1900-1913, and co-author of New York: Yesterday and Today.

He served as guest editor of the journal Public Historian on “Strengthening the Management of State History: Issues, Perspectives, and Insights from New York” (August 2011).

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