History Conferences: Neglected Tourism Revenue


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54nytourismLast Saturday I attended the Native American Institute for the Hudson Valley’s conference on the Mohicans. The organization is based in Red Hook in Dutchess County. The New Netherland Museum and Replica Ship Half Moon provided support.

The conference included speakers, a walking tour to four sites all along Main Street, and a closing reception in a still-active colonial church. One of the speakers was from Canaan in Columbia County, and Albany, Kinderhook, Fort Ticonderoga, and New Stockbridge in Madison County figured prominently in the program. The border war between New York and Massachusetts in which the Mohicans became entangled was a constant topic.

The local police chief moderated the conference which included three Mohicans from the Wisconsin reservation. The local selectwoman welcomed the audience of 50+ people to the conference in the Town Hall. She was a selectwoman and not a Town Supervisor because the conference was held in Stockbridge, MA. A September conference will be at the New York State Museum.

During the conference, I realized there are many history conferences offered on an annual basis in New York State as well one-time or rotating conferences. Does anyone maintain a list of these conferences?

I ask because people do travel to history conferences. Travel and tourism are in the news again thanks to a tourism summit and nearly $60,000,000 pledged by Governor Cuomo. People in the historic sites know that the travel industry with its billions in revenues and hundreds of thousands of jobs and cultural heritage or history tourism business are two different things. The people staying in the motels by Laguardia Airport don’t visit the historic sites in Queens and the international visitors to the US Open in Flushing are great for the hotels in Manhattan but irrelevant for history site visits. Hopefully one day we can deal with the reality of the difference between the travel business and history tourism.

History-related conferences have been neglected so far as part of the conversation about developing tourism revenue and these conferences need help. The Museumwise/Museum Association of New York and Association of Public Historians of New York State conferences in Syracuse/Liverpool last month did require lodging and meals as will the Conference on New York History next month in Cooperstown.

For example, while I attended the Mohican conference, I received an email asking for help in promoting the 21st Annual Peterboro Civil War Weekend. How much of the $60,000,000 will go to funding history conferences and Civil War sesquicentennial events?

After I returned from the conference, I received an email about helping on  Drums Along the Mohawk Outdoor Drama. How much of the $60,000,000 will go to funding history events related to the French and Indian War, or the American Revolution, the bicentennial of the War of 1812?

What was the purpose of Ken Jackson’s talk at the Path Through History project kick-off event last August in Albany which mentioned the various areas in which NYS played a prominent role in American history? How many conferences on topics in American history of national importance that could be held in NYS? Conferences bring visitors and sometimes as part of those conference sessions, attendees visit historic sites as well.

Consider the following example:

The Pioneer America Society: Association for the Preservation of Artifacts & Landscapes (PAS: APAL) will hold its 45th annual conference in the Mohawk Valley Region of New York, from October 9 to 12, 2013. The meeting headquarters will be in the restored 1912 Hotel Utica, designed by Eisenvein and Johnson of Buffalo, in historic downtown Utica, New York. The 2012 Conference theme is: *The Mohawk Valley – New England Extended: Landscapes of Cultural and Economic Change & Diversity*. The Mohawk Valley in New York State has a rich and diverse history that includes landscapes from Native Americans, vernacular houses and barns influenced by the settlers from New England and their passion for classical revival styles, along with canals and railroads that produced urban and industrial landscapes. Nearby are also landscapes of leisure (Adirondacks), religion (the burnt over district), and Cooperstown, a shrine to America’s pastime.

I had never heard of this organization so I contacted them after I received this notice with a cc to Brian Howard, Oneida County Historical Society. He was not familiar with this conference and based on the reply I received, it appears the conference organizers have not yet reached out to any local historical organizations. That might change. So here we have people coming from out of state to stay in a NYS hotel and pay NYS sales tax and lodging tax. How much of the $60,000,000 will go towards holding and promoting history-based conferences in NYS?

The mechanism already exists to some extent through the New York Council for the Humanities but the resources available are small. Let’s include history conferences both about the events,  people, and sites of the state as well as the national history conferences (for whom NYC aka Manhattan often is too expensive) as part of the discussion the history community, not the tourism community, needs to have with Governor Cuomo.

Who will arrange such a meeting?

5 thoughts on “History Conferences: Neglected Tourism Revenue

  1. John WarrenJohn Warren

    This site maintains a list of upcoming conferences – at least those that the public hears about.
    http://newyorkhistoryblog.org/categories/conferences/

    Unfortunately, state and national organizations almost never announce their conferences in public places, and almost never inform the editor of this site.

    After five years of operating this site, I’ve come to learn that professional historians in New York State are by and large not interested in keeping the public informed about their activities, local organizations have almost no skills in informing the public about their news and events, and there is practically no leadership in regards to these issues, and fundamentally, no statewide leadership to speak of at all.

    Although there are several organizations with “New York State” in their titles, or with statewide missions, there is currently no statewide journal. (BTW, when there was, they refused to participate in this site in order to spread history news and information, or even for that matter, to run the table of contents of their journal when it was published). [UPDATE: I have learned that NYSHA’s journal New York History is still being published as a pdf. I’ll be reporting on the change on Thursday, 5/23].

    The vast majority of New York State historians I’ve encountered (and I’ve now encountered lots of them through this site over five years alone, plus long before that) do not appreciate the power of affordable public programs, public information, or public history. A surprising number have very limited e-mail skills, and most have almost no understanding of how the internet (now in popular use for 20 years) could help them promote their institutions.

    Some of the largest museums and historical organizations have made it nearly impossible for sites such as this to follow and report on their activities.

    Frankly, it sometimes borders on criminal, in that many organizations seem to be operating for the benefit of a select group of insiders, using public money.

    That’s my two cents, for now, but I am seriously considering exposing the worst cases.

    John Warren
    Founder and Editor

    PS: I’ve been invited to take part in two conference panels this year. Incredibly, they are both on the same weekend, hundreds of miles and many hours drive apart. Yeah, we’re having the NY Archives Conference in Long Island on the same weekend as the Conference on New York History in Cooperstown. I think that’s pretty good evidence of the lack of leadership I’m talking about.

    Reply
    1. Stefan Stanley

      Peter,

      I couldn’t agree with you more. Most of the historians that I have met with are EXTREMELY reluctant to embrace social media technology, an excellent medium for marketing these conferences to the general public, especially to those young people who have an interest in learning about New York State history.

      Reply
  2. Miguel HernandezMiguel Hernández

    Peter: I may have overlooked it but I saw no inclusion of the Office of the New York State Historian or the Association of New York State Municipal Historians in the Governor Cuomo’s $60,000,00 historical tourism initiative. Was SHPO in it? Anyway, from everything I read about this program it seems to be exclusively tailored for the Hotel, Restaurant & Travel Industry and little if any resources being allocated for programs by local and even official NY State historical organizations. I am I wrong?

    Reply
  3. Sunny Day

    Peter,
    In case you are not yet aware of it, the New York Cultural Heritage Network, under the leadership of Lynn “Spike” Herzig is connecting many organizations,venues, events, relating to NYS history. It is a great and effective organization (which by the way was not invited to the Governor’s Tourism Summit.) with reasonable membership rates. Their website is http://www.nychtn.com

    Susan

    Reply
    1. John WarrenJohn Warren

      This provides a good example of some of the problems I described above.

      Let’s take a look at the New York Cultural Heritage Network website:

      The calendar – no events listed at all that I can see: http://www.nychtn.com/calendar.php

      Here is the link to the blog – empty, not one post: http://www.nychtn.com/blog_all.php

      There is a large list of “members” attached to a map with search features. I’m sure it must have some use beyond what Google provides, but not being in the tourism business per se, I don’t immediately see the value. Perhaps ease in searching some cultural sites (it’s not just history). A search for all places in Warren County turned up a link list of cultural organizations in the county, that requires an additional click through and read to click through to their webpages (those that have webpages) at the top of the list was a history tourism company. I’m sure that has some value, especially for people looking to market to those organizations (like the NY Cultural Heritage Network for example). Apparently, “The Network has completed the first ever systematic computerized fifty-five county inventory of all arts, culture and heritage resources. This listing, located on our website, includes nearly 2400 venues that have been divided into nine specialized categories.”

      Public interaction? None that I can see. You can send them an e-mail I guess. That’s all I could find. Though you can “join” for $30.

      They are also offering some workshops, apparently for members, there is no information about them on the site that I could find.

      And BTW, as far as I can tell they have never contacted this site about their organization, offerings, events, or anything for that matter. Maybe they just never heard about this site, and have never done a Google search for New York History.

      Those facts seem odd for an organization whose mission is to “Increase visitation and improve the cash position of each attraction and/or venue [and]… Develop and expand cultural heritage tourism.”

      So if we’re going to promote the organization as “great and effective” we must have some seriously bad standards.

      JW

      Reply

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