New York State requires every municipality to have a historian. This means every village, every town, every city, every county, and, of course, at the state level. Hamlets can ponder “should we or should we not have an historian, that is the question” but they are not legally obligated to have one. Nor are neighborhoods. That might seem self-evident outside New York City, but one should realize that the neighborhoods in the city can be substantially larger than even some cities.
Naturally, even when you are required to have a historian by state law there is no assistance from the state in support of that position. It is an unfunded mandate.
Let’s examine the state of these municipal historians. Continue reading
My quest to come to grips with the legacy of 9/11 in this series of posts draws to a close with this one. So far I have been examining the ways in which we remember those of who have died, the different circumstances in which people do die, and the changing ways through which the legacy of those who have fallen in battle have been remembered and forgotten.
I have been reminded of the loss of memory, or at least its diminishment over time through some recent events. First there have been a series of posts about America’s first 9/11, the Battle of Plattsburgh during the War of 1812. For the British, it is not a war they forgot since it never was one they remembered. For America, especially New York, it shows how easily deaths can be forgotten and even victories can vanish. Continue reading
What do you give as a present to someone who already has everything? By every official measure from the Albany-Manhattan bubble, the Path through History is a rip-roaring success. This makes the choice of a 2nd Birthday gift difficult. Nonetheless, I would like to try to offer some suggestions.
which also take into account Bruce Dearstyne’s concerns, raised both by post in New York History and at State Legislator Engelbright’s New York History Roundtable, May 29, about the failure to observe the designated New York History month in November. Continue reading
Over the past few weeks, I have had two occasions to visit the 9/11 Memorial Plaza. The first was at the invitation of City Wonders Tours, a tour company seeking to promote its tour.
The second was following the memorial service to Alexander Hamilton by the Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society at nearby Trinity Church, the final stop of the City Wonders tour. The following comments are based on these visits. Continue reading
August 28, 2014, marked the two-year birthday of the Path through History. It’s pregnancy was a long and troubled one with a delivery date long after the original May target. I attended the birthing of the program. I still have the paperweight distributed at the meeting. I still have the two slick glossy pamphlets distributed at the meeting. I even still have an unused napkin from the Executive Mansion reception where I met the Governor and two of his daughters. Didn’t we all have such hopes for the project then!
Now at the two-year anniversary, who will blow out the candles on Path through History birthday cake on August 28, 2014? Logically one would expect the head of the project to do so. Who is the head of the project? Continue reading
Chappaqua doesn’t exist. So says Ken Jackson of Columbia University, a longtime advocate calling for New York State to promote New York history. This might seem strange to the many people who have heard of Chappaqua, and those who know someone who lives there. It might also seem strange because Jackson himself lives in Chappaqua.
Well, not exactly. Chappaqua is not a municipality. There are no Chappaqua mayor, police, court or any of the other government services we normally associate with a municipality in New York State. Chappaqua doesn’t have a municipal historian because it is not a municipality; it’s a hamlet, located in the Town of New Castle. Continue reading
The Common Core continues to be in the news, so recently I attended “Uncommon Approaches to the Common Core 2: Inquiry-based Learning Access across the Disciplines” held August 12-13 at the Office of Education in Albany.
One session included 10 breakout groups by geographic area. In the Mid-Hudson discussion group there were about 13 people, double that number in New York City including 10 people from the Queens Library who were not on the attendance list, and over 60 people at the Capital Region group. Some of the other regions were even less attended than the Mid-Hudson group. Continue reading
When John Winthrop was setting sail for America, he delivered a lay sermon which would become a foundational text for the American Civil Religion. Drawing on the Book of Matthew, he spoke of a “city on a hill” that the eyes of the world would be upon.
There is a longstanding idolizing of the city in human culture. This exaltation derives from ancient Mesopotamia, the first builders of major cities. The famous Epic of Gilgamesh, begins with a paean to the walls of the city he ruled. At the end of epic, with Gilgamesh’s adventures completed and his quest for immortality over, he returns to those same city walls with the insight that while the body is not immortal, the walls of the city are. In this ancient epic, when Gilgamesh clicks his heels three times and realizes there is no place like home, it is to the city to which he returns. Continue reading
How should we remember 9/11? I began to think about this more as the date for the opening of the 9/11 Museum neared. By coincidence, I was invited by City Wonders to take one of its tours and I chose the 9/11 Memorial Tour. This was just prior to the opening of the museum in May.
9/11 and that tour are responsible for the recent series of posts on remembering the dead. For me, it is important to understand 9/11 in context. That means not only the historical context in which the event occurred but the historical context in which we remember historical events. Our Thanksgivings, Christmases, and Passovers aren’t the same as our ancestors, nor is Memorial/Decoration Day. As a result, I began to write about different ways and circumstances in which we remember those who have died. Continue reading
Last week, I asked readers to “consider what might happen if Empire State Development and I Love NY actually promoted New York State History and reached out to tour operators to visit historic New York.”
That drew a comment from “Cathy” about her experience in Rockland County: Continue reading
I have used the term tourist-industrial complex to refer to the recipients of the New York State funding from the Path through History project, but the funding goes beyond the Path project or even tourism. This funding did not go to the history community. Instead tens of millions of dollars went to advertising. That has now become an issue in the media and in the ongoing gubernatorial campaign.
A recent article by Joseph Spector, the Albany Bureau chief of Gannet Company attempts to address where the money funneled to Empire State Development (ESD), which includes ILoveNY and therefore the Path through History project, went. Continue reading
There is a special group of people who are remembered by a society. These are the fallen, those who die in battle on behalf of something larger than themselves. In the Bible there is an infrequently used term “nephilim” from the verb “to fall.”
Based on the archaeological evidence, the Nephilim appear to have been part of group who were remembered in Canaanite societies in the Middle and Late Bronze Age (second millennium BCE). These fallen warriors were remembered in feasts and stories just as warriors who have fallen in battle are still remembered today. It’s part of the human experience. Continue reading
We remember loved ones. We remember those about whom we care and who are now departed. We remember our ancestors for one, two, and maybe three generations if we are lucky enough to have known them. Beyond that memory becomes difficult, figures become blurred, and people are forgotten.
We do not simply dispose of the body when death occurs, we perform a ritual. Whether or not the ritual aids the one who has died is beyond the scope of this post; the ritual certainly is intended to aid the living to continue their journey in this life. Continue reading
We humans remember the departed. Frequently we honor them. This is even more true for our leaders. How we choose to remember, is part of what defines a culture.
The most famous example of remembering dead leaders is, of course, the pyramids. They already were a tourist destination thousands of years ago thousands of years after they had been built. By contrast, in America one would be hard-pressed to identify where an American president is buried. In New York, we have Grant’s Tomb. I frequently watch the double-decker buses stop on Riverside Drive and disgorge the tourists who angle for shots of the Hudson River, the George Washington Bridge, and Grant’s Tomb. Continue reading
On May 29, Assemblyman Steve Englebright (Suffolk) convened a roundtable for the proposed New York State History Commission. Also in attendance were Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (Queens) and Senator George Latimer (Westchester), the senator from my district who had just become a co-sponsor.
Invited participants with name cards sat around the table. In addition there were about six of us who attended the public meeting as a result of my post to The New York History Blog. Assemblyman Englebright graciously allowed us to participate in the discussion along with those invited. I consider this meeting to have been a fact-finding or information-gathering meeting by the legislators who were seeking to learn the state of affairs in the New York history community. Continue reading
New York was an object of great importance during the American Revolution. At the kick off of the Path through History project in August 2012, plenary speaker Ken Jackson, Columbia University, criticized New York for its inadequate efforts to tell its story compared to what Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts are doing. He welcomed the opportunity that New York finally was going to get it right.
By coincidence, at the New York History community roundtable convened by Assemblyman Englebright several weeks ago in connection with his proposed New York History Commission, he began with a similar plea for New York to tell its story as well as those same states Jackson had mentioned 20 months earlier. He was particularly incensed over the new TV show Turn about America’s first spy ring set in the very community he represents. Continue reading
Can the United States survive in an age of hyphens? Consider the innocuous comments of a traveler as recently reported in the New York Times:
“I enjoy business travel when it gives me the opportunity to visit with other cultures. Those cultures don’t have to be found in foreign lands. In the United States, there are so many different and wonderful cultural experiences you can have just traveling between Washington, Michigan and Kentucky, for example.” Continue reading
Immigration has always been an important part of New York history. If one considers the story of the state from the Ice Age to Global Warming, then we and/or our ancestors all arrived here from somewhere else. Even if we were born an American and reside here now we may not have been born in New York. And if we were born in New York, we may not now live in the community where we were born or grew up. People move around a lot. How often do you hear the story of someone who has only been a resident of the community for 10, 20, 30 years and is still considered a newcomer?
Telling the story of immigration in New York provides an opportunity for us to connect with the world. What country doesn’t have residents in this state? So here is an opportunity for New York to tell the story about what it means to be a New Yorker by examining the lives of people who became New Yorkers. Continue reading
Slavery and New York State have a long history together. Indeed, the history of slavery in New York predates the birth of New York as an English and originates in the days of New Netherland, part of the extensive international slave trade.
As we are regularly reminded by events today, slavery has not disappeared. The current issue of Time includes an article on the worldwide continuance of slavery today, especially targeting young women and girls.
What does this have to do with New York history today? Continue reading
Recently I wrote about my lobbying experience in Albany and offered a number of suggestions about what needed to be done. Those posts generated responses on the difficultly of lobbying and the need to have an agenda. The likelihood of the history community organizing around a single agenda seemed slim.
I am pleased to report however, that there is proposed legislation in the New York State Assembly which would mark such a giant leap forward. It’s so good, I can scarcely believe it exists. The legislation is from Steve Englebright (D- Setauket). Continue reading