Author Archives: Johanna Yaun

Johanna Yaun

About Johanna Yaun

A native Newburgher, Johanna Yaun spent the last decade advocating for the City's historical resources first as a tour guide at Washington's HQ and later as director of the Historical Society of Newburgh Bay and the Highlands. She is the Orange County Communities Council representative to Hudson River Valley Greenway, on the Board for the Newburgh Landmarks Conservancy and the Fullerton Cultural Center and since 2014 she has served as the Orange County Historian. You can follow Orange County History and Heritage on Facebook for updates. Also, sign up to receive news and event updates about history and heritage in Orange County, N.Y. here.

Brutalist Architecture Still Controversial After 50 Years


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orange county government buildingWhen I began my term as Orange County Historian, Ted Sly was kind enough to go over some of his most memorable moments in the post.

On one occasion around 2010, he explained, he met with members of the Paul Rudolph Foundation and toured them through the Government Center where they encountered hecklers, one of which shouted out from the office, “Tear it down! Tear it down!”

It wasn’t my first inkling of the animosity that has persisted in the community regarding the Orange County Government Center since it was dedicated in 1970 but I appreciated his warning. Continue reading

Johanna Yaun: Newburgh’s Dutch Reformed Church


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Dutch Reformed ChurchOn a summer day in 1998, I stood on Grand Street, waiting. First Lady Hillary Clinton’s press bus had broken down on I-87 and she was now several hours late.

When she finally arrived, she gave an impressive speech and pledged funds ($128,205) through the Save America’s Treasures program to stabilize the upper gallery of an A.J. Davis designed masterpiece, the Dutch Reformed Church.

At 14 years old, I was just beginning to take an interest in historic preservation. I was already aware that Newburgh possessed a vast array of historic structures, but Clinton’s visit was an inspiring notion that the ruins I had grown up around in the post-urban renewal era were finally getting the attention they needed and deserved. The work done with the grant stabilized the building and prevented what would have been an imminent collapse. Things were looking up for Newburgh’s historic district. Continue reading

Johanna Yaun: The New York History Community’s Next 100 Years


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ny-history-next-100-yearsI don’t want to let 2016 come to a close without marking an important commemoration in the history of historic preservation.

One hundred years ago, the Federal Government created the National Parks Service. During the official centennial celebration in August of this year, the Hudson Valley was honored to welcome the Secretary of Interior, Sally Jewell, to a roundtable discussion at the Bear Mountain Inn.  For the discussion, participants were asked to predict which trends would persist in the next 100 years of historic preservation and historic interpretation. With a new administration in the White House, a new Secretary of Interior will soon follow and the challenge to reach that person with the priorities of the historical profession will begin again. On a local level we face a continuing retraction of municipal resources for arts and cultural protection and programming as the burden is shifted to non-profits. My predictions are based on those concerns as well as the changes that I see in how technology is being used to reach the public. Continue reading

Johanna Yaun: A Public History State Of Emergency


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New York State MapThis week I came across an article about Joe Bagley, the 31-year- old archaeologist who has been put in charge of one million mostly un-cataloged City of Boston artifacts. Underpaid and overburdened, he’s found ways to triage the projects that come at him each day. He has to be a historian, a fundraiser, a bureaucrat, a volunteer coordinator, a social media guru, an artifact guardian, a cheerleader for preservation, a meticulous registrar, and a broad minded strategic planner, all at the same time.

You’re not alone, Joe. This has become the narrative of the post-recession workplace. It’s like a reality TV premise: we give you poverty level pay and a mountain of responsibility, and expect you to turn this organization around with your hipster ingenuity. I see it so often that I’ve started to refer to it as the martyr-hero motif. Continue reading

Johanna Yaun On Municipal Historians


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hathornhouseNew York has 932 towns, 547 villages, and 62 cities. Each one of them is required by State law to appoint a Municipal Historian.

To most people, this sounds like a quirky mandate, especially considering that there’s no requirement to provide a salary or storage space to maintain local records. Also, you may remember a Municipal Historian presenting a slide show at your elementary school or at a community festival where you may have developed an appreciation for their work – or perhaps been unimpressed because of how out-of-touch they were. Continue reading

The State of Orange County’s History Community


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Orange County NY HistorianThere’s a crisis in historical societies and historic house museums across the nation. Membership dues and visitation are in decline. The costs of maintaining buildings and collections is exhausting resources.

Volunteers are under pressure to digitize archives and make resources more widely available to the public without having the expertise or budgetary supports that would be necessary to do so. Exhibits and programming are stagnant while trustees work tirelessly to triage the symptoms. And the public is largely unaware of the treasures that these institutions have to offer. Continue reading

Johanna Yaun: Trends in Heritage Tourism


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eriehotelHeritage tourism is a new name for an old concept. As an archaeology student in Greece, I remember seeing Lord Byron’s name carved on the Temple of Poseidon. His mark among the hundreds of forgotten names reminds us of the well-established motif of traveling to the classical world as part of the Grand Tour. The German word “Bildungsreisen,” used among the nineteenth century elite in Europe, described travel for educational and cultural enlightenment. Continue reading