It’s true. November is New York State History Month.
In 1997, New York’s legislature added Section 57.02 to the state’s Arts and Cultural Affairs Law and 1) designated November as New York State History Month, 2) defined the purpose of the month as the celebration of state history and the recognition of the contributions of state and local historians, and 3) authorized the Education Department to undertake projects to recognize the month (while the legislation failed to identify any specific projects, it did suggest student essay contests as one possibility). Continue reading
I was disappointed to hear the recent news that Schenectady County officials have chosen to cut funding for their county historian. This decision appears to have less to do with the historian than it did with the county’s fiscal problems.
Many of us are familiar with the state law that requires municipalities to appoint historians, and as Gerry Smith has pointed out, NYS County Law, section 400, also requires counties to make similar appointments. Many counties and many municipalities comply with these laws. Many don’t. But that’s not what’s at stake here. Continue reading
If there is one thing historians should know, it is that “things change.” After all, without change, history would have no meaning. And historians would have no jobs. Face it. Everyone may love history. But the reason some of us collect paychecks, practically speaking, is that we perform the unique and essential service of helping people understand history—not so we can all venerate the past but so that we can change the way things are and make history ourselves. Continue reading
As New York’s State Historian, I often say that New Yorkers have long provided the country with some of its most informed leadership. Why? Because they understand and appreciate their state’s place in American history.
Take as a case in point the 100th anniversary of the American Civil War (1961-65). This was a time when some Americans were using their heritage to defy federal desegregation efforts. New York’s Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller, however, used his state’s history for a far better purpose. He promoted civil rights and racial equality in America by joining with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and others in celebration of the 100th birthday of a document owned by the New York State Library—Lincoln’s draft Emancipation Proclamation. Continue reading