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
There are several events which have occurred or soon will be occurring in New England that should be of interest to the New York History community. These include
- A Connecticut Council of Social Studies (CCSS) announcement
- April 26 New England Historical Association (NEHA) annual conference
- April 28 Connecticut League of Historical Organizations (CHLO) regional meeting
- June 2 Connecticut League of Historical Organizations annual meeting
- June 16-21 Connecticut’s “Path through History”
These events highlight some similarities and differences in history actions in the two regions. Continue reading
The high school local history conference is something I recommend every county should do. For the past two years, Rockland County has held such a conference. I attended both conferences and spoke briefly at the first one. This post is dedicated to some of the lessons I learned from the conference.
First, the Historical Society of Rockland County and the County Historian are to be congratulated for organizing the conference and for the people who did attend. The list includes the County Executive, the County Clerk, the County District Attorney, the County Legislative Chair, along with various town supervisors and municipal historians. One never knows where one will find history. For example the District Attorney, who in this case followed in his father’s footsteps, may have tales to tell about prosecutions which became part of the fabric of county history. Certainly the presence of these officials delivered a powerful message in support of local history. Continue reading
Rockland is a compact county located along the border of New Jersey to the south, and the Hudson River to the east. It broke away from the more sprawling Orange County to the north in 1798, in part due to the challenge of governing an area split by the Ramapo Mountains.
Over the years, the area has been home to various peoples who didn’t fit in with the larger Dutch and English populations. The county consists of five towns including one with over 100,000 people, more than one-third the county’s total population. There are 19 villages and numerous hamlets. Continue reading
Two of the buzzwords for the Path through History project have been “cooperation” and “collaboration.” Achieving them has been difficult, particularly given the number of small historic sites that simply do not have the staff to spare for such an effort. Another problem has been the lack of support for history tourism by the tourist departments. I’ve been told they might promote something if you bring it to them, but will not help create it.
As it turns out, there is a new area where county tourist departments are cooperating and collaborating in support of a trail with statewide implications: the supernatural. As previously reported in The New York History Blog, haunted mansions are big business, especially at Halloween. So the next time you are re-evaluating your organization’s strategic vision, keep in mind the opportunities of positioning yourself to appear on New York State’s “Haunted History Trail.” This is not another April Fools prank; there are lessons to be learned from this endeavor. The website of the “Haunted History Trail” includes the following “About the Trail”: Continue reading
As reported in my previous post on lobbying in Albany, I had the opportunity to briefly chat with Ken Adams, President and CEO Empire State Development and Commissioner of New York State Department of Economic Development. This includes ILoveNY and the Path through history.
That chat led to an email, written March 5th, which is posted below. He has not responded. Continue reading
Should the New York State history community lobby in Albany and if so, for what? These questions occurred to me as I recently participated in two days of lobbying. The events were arranged by Parks & Trails New York and the Open Space Institute’s Alliance for New York Parks on Park Advocacy Day, and by the Tourism Industry Coalition for Tourism Action Day. The former is works essentially on behalf of NYS Office Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation (NYSOPRHP) while the latter consists of 23 organizations including 9 counties, 2 cities, New York and Syracuse, one region, the Finger Lakes, and hospitality organizations. Continue reading
It is time for New York State to boldly go where no state has gone before and go back to the future to resurrect the now extinct mastodon. The effort to bring the mammoth back from extinction recently was the cover article in the New York Times Sunday Magazine.
Russia and Japan are working to create mammoths. New York should not be left behind in the de-extinction race. I hereby challenge Governor Cuomo to launch a new “Manhattan Project” so we are the first to bring the paleolithic era to life through the creation of Mastodon Park, our own Ice Age animal, the mastodon. Continue reading