Governments are often challenged in developing policies about what to emphasize in public history programs such as statues and commemorations, and what to leave out, neglect, or relegate to the shadows. A few examples that may be of interest:
LOCAL DECISION MAKING
In March of this year, Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe vetoed a bill to prevent local governments from taking down monuments to the Confederacy. The issue is a sensitive one, especially so this year. McAuliffe framed it as an issue of the state needing to let communities decide on a case-by- case basis. Continue reading
There is encouraging evidence that we may be moving toward a turning point for New York’s historical enterprise.
During the last several months:
The Education Department made the State Historian an independent, full-time position. This is unlike the previous situation, where the State Historian, Bob Weible, also served as Chief History Curator of the State Museum. In effect, that was two jobs rolled into one. The curatorial work left little time for the state history work. Creating a new, dedicated position required approval of the Director of the State Museum, the Commissioner of Education and the Division of the Budget. Those are positive signs of interest and support. Continue reading
New York’s history community is arguably the most diverse, energetic, and imaginative of any state’s. There is always more exciting work to be done to strengthen our programs, raise the visibility of state and local history, and help coordinate our work.
Here are five opportunities for consideration and action. Continue reading
History was made on July 4, 1908, the date of the first pre-announced, publicly-witnessed, officially certified flight of an airplane in the United States.
Who made the historic flight? Hint: it was not the Wright brothers! Continue reading
In April, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced that Harriet Tubman will be featured on the front of new $20 bills. Tubman is the first woman to appear on modern U.S. currency. She displaces former president Andrew Jackson, whose image will move to the back of the bill.
Lew’s decision came after a year’s discussion, including soliciting public input, on images for redesigned currency. Continue reading
New York has had several history-minded governors, including Andrew Cuomo, who often cites the Erie Canal and other historical achievements as evidence of our state’s historical greatness and resilience. Levi P. Morton signed the law that created the office of the State Historian. Alfred E. Smith signed the statute that created the network of official local government historians. Franklin D. Roosevelt served for a while as the official historian of the Town of Hyde Park.
But Theodore Roosevelt, governor from 1899 to 1901 and president, 1901-1909, was a notable historian in his own right. He read extensively in history and his home at Sagamore Hill on Long Island reportedly contained about 12,000 books, many of them on history, at the time of his death in 1919.Roosevelt’s own books “The Naval War of 1812” and “The Winning of the West” were best-sellers in their day. His History of New York City is still interesting. Continue reading
Plans are being developed for commemoration of at least three significant historical events next year – the centennial of women’s suffrage in New York State, the bicentennial of the Erie Canal, and the centennial of the United States’ entry into World War I. These are all exciting opportunities to call attention to New York’s history.
But the New York historical community might consider going even further with these three events. In fact, the historical community might consider making 2017 a special year for New York history. Here are a few possibilities: Continue reading
There are many ways to promote our historical programs, depending on the audience and the message we want to get across.
Readers of this New York History blog might be interested in three recent promotional videos. They’re all different but have a common theme: history is exciting and important and this is the place to experience it! Continue reading
New York is fortunate in having a robust history and so many historians, over the years, preserving, writing about, interpreting, and presenting it. But sometimes we concentrate repeatedly on some aspects of history and under-emphasize others that are equally as important.
The history of the Erie Canal and other canals might be a good example. Continue reading
As we look forward to the new year ahead, we continue to search for and try out ideas that will strengthen state and local history here in New York. What follows is a short list of resources that might be of interest:
Of course, the best place to publicize, monitor, and comment on historical programs and issues in our state is this New York History Blog. John Warren continues to provide a unique forum here to keep up with history community news and exchange ideas. Without this blog, we would not have any way to keep in touch. We wouldn’t be able to follow news from historical programs, updates on the work and role of local historians, or discussions of New York History Month, Path Through History, the State Historian’s position, or the proposed Museum Education Act, just to cite a few examples. But keeping the blog going requires support from the state’s history community. Continue reading