Author Archives: Bruce Dearstyne

Bruce Dearstyne

About Bruce Dearstyne

Dr. Bruce W. Dearstyne served on the staff of the New York State Office of State History and the State Archives. He was a professor and is now an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland’s College of Information Studies and has written widely about New York history and occasionally writes about New York history issues for the “Perspective” section of the Sunday Albany Times Union. Bruce is the author of two books forthcoming in 2015: The Spirit of New York: Defining Events in the Empire State’s History (SUNY Press) and also Leading the Historical Enterprise: Strategic Creativity, Planning and Advocacy for the Digital Age (Rowman and Littlefield and the AASLH).

NY Public Historians: Looking Back, Looking Ahead


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albany_state_education_buildingApril 11, 2013 marks the 94th anniversary of Governor Al Smith’s signing the law that established New York’s system of local government Historians (Laws of 1919, Ch. 181). Smith was a history-minded leader.

As an Assemblyman, he had sponsored the bill in 1911 that moved the State Historian’s office to the State Education Department and initiated the state’s local government records program. In 1919, his first year as governor, he was preparing to reorganize and modernize state government.

His approval of the Historians’ Law was a milestone event. New York was, and still is, the only state in the nation to declare preservation and dissemination of local history to be a public purpose so important that it is embodied in statute.
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Bringing Neglected New York History to Light


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Erie - Champlain Canal Junction (Courtesy American Canals)New York’s long, rich, and vibrant state and local history has long been a source of pride and inspiration. As items on this website repeatedly confirm, there are many programs that provide creative interpretation and presentation of key events and developments.

But over the years, the New York historical community, particularly in publishing books, has sometimes tended to concentrate on certain topics and neglect or minimize others.
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Connecting History And Public Policy


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Four recent developments remind us of the opportunities to tie history to other initiatives here in New York. Doing that successfully will continue to require leadership, persistence, and imagination.

*New York pride…and history? The New York State Economic Development Corporation is running ads in business journals to attract businesses to the state. The ads link to the Development Corporation’s Web Site. The ads say, among other things: Continue reading

Public History and Debate of Public Issues


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How important is “public history?”

The essay on public history in the newly published second edition of the Encyclopedia of Local History, provides some fresh insights. The Encyclopedia, edited by Tompkins County Historian Carol Kammen, a long-time leader in the field, and Amy H. Wilson, an independent museum consultant and former director of the Chemung County Historical Society in Elmira, is  a rich source of fresh insights on all aspects of local history. Continue reading

Should We Teach NY State and Local History?


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If you have an opinion on whether or not New York State and local history should be taught in our public schools, now is the time to speak up.

As noted on September 17 here at the online news magazine New York History, the State Education Department has released a draft version of the “New York State Common Core K-8 Social Studies Framework” for review and comment until October 11 [online]. There is a link there for people to submit comments. After revision, the document will go to the Board of Regents for adoption as state education policy. Continue reading

Bridges And New York History


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New York State has approximately 17,000 highway bridges. They are essential for traveling around our state and connecting our communities. About 37% are “functionally obsolete” or “structurally deficient,” according to DOT, a reminder of the need for continuing investment to maintain valuable resources.

Bridges – old and new – are part of community and state history. The story of three historically significant bridges shows various connections to history. Continue reading

Teaching New York History: Three Frameworks


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The revision of the New York State social studies curriculum should involve, or call on the expertise of, many individuals and historical groups, or they should consider proactively advancing their suggestions. Peter Feinman’s recent post included the resolutions of the annual meeting in March of the New York State Social Studies Council, articulating the concerns of social studies teachers and reaffirming the importance of social studies. Continue reading

Downton Abbey and Hudson Valley Historic Houses


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Many people are fascinated by the serial British drama “Downton Abbey”, currently airing on PBS. The Abbey is a fictional mansion in Yorkshire, the home of a fictional family, the Granthams, and their servant staff, during the early 20th century. It is an entertaining tale of love, intrigue, loyalty, betrayal, triumph, and tragedy! And it has generated, or at least been accompanied by, new books on the real history of the time, including Jessica Fellows, The World of Downton Abbey and the Countess of Carnarvon, Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey. Continue reading

Some Sources for Ideas and Inspiration


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The posts here at New York History demonstrate the robustness of New York’s historical enterprise and the creativity and energy of people working in the field. But the posts also show the need for more leadership, coordination, resources, and new approaches. This post lists some sources from beyond New York that might provide useful perspectives for discussions about strengthening the historical enterprise in our state. (It is an expanded version of the list in my article in Public Historian last August.) Continue reading

Strengthening the Historical Enterprise


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Several recent posts on this site have demonstrated the robustness and diversity of New York’s historical programs but also pointed to the limitations, challenges, and potential for much greater achievement. The special issue of the Public Historian on “Strengthening the Management of State History: Issues, Perspectives, and Insights from New York” last August analyzed these same issues.

That discussion needs to continue. In fact, we are overdue for an examination of the state’s historical enterprise and discussion of ways of boosting its effectiveness and impact.
New York is one of the nation’s oldest states, with a history stretching back more than 400 years. Continue reading

Civil War: Potential NYS Commemoration Initiatives


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We are entering the second year of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. New York contributed more soldiers, war materiel, money, and support to the Civil War effort than any other state. Dozens of commemorative activities are under way or in prospect in communities across the state. But New York state government is reticent about recalling, studying and commemorating its Civil War past. Continue reading