Category Archives: Public History

The Commissioner of Education and the NYS Historian


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Cultural Education Center State Museum ArchivesAt present the position of the New York State Historians lies deep within the bowels of the state bureaucracy, starved for resources, and scarcely able to see the light of day through all the bureaucratic levels above it.

Formerly, the State Historian reported to the Director of the New York State Museum, who reports to the Deputy Commissioner for the Office of Culture and Education, who reports to the Executive Deputy Commissioner of Education, who reports to Commissioner of Education, who answers to the Board of Regents.

But what does that mean? Continue reading

Theodore Roosevelt On Popular And Scholarly History


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theodore roosevelt pugilist and presidentNew York has had several history-minded governors, including Andrew Cuomo, who often cites the Erie Canal and other historical achievements as evidence of our state’s historical greatness and resilience. Levi P. Morton signed the law that created the office of the State Historian. Alfred E. Smith signed the statute that created the network of official local government historians. Franklin D. Roosevelt served for a while as the official historian of the Town of Hyde Park.

But Theodore Roosevelt, governor from 1899 to 1901 and president, 1901-1909, was a notable historian in his own right. He read extensively in history and his home at Sagamore Hill on Long Island reportedly contained about 12,000 books, many of them on history, at the time of his death in 1919.Roosevelt’s own books “The Naval War of 1812” and “The Winning of the West” were best-sellers in their day. His History of New York City is still interesting. Continue reading

Bob Weible: What’s Next for the New York State Historian?


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State Education Building by Matt Wade Photography (Wikimedia User UpstateNYer)I would like to congratulate Devin Lander on his recently announced appointment as New York State Historian.

I have known and worked with Devin for several years and believe that he holds the potential to become an outstanding State Historian. He has solid grounding in New York State history and appreciates the power it holds to educate New Yorkers, build responsible citizenship, and strengthen the quality of life in communities across the state. He’s smart, principled, thoughtful, even-tempered, respectful, patient, and very professional. He works productively and well with others, listens to what other people have to say, promotes cooperation among diverse constituencies, and gets good things done.

At the same time that I applaud Devin’s appointment, I share some concerns of many, if not most, people in the state’s history community: municipal and academic historians, history teachers, students, archivists, librarians, museum professionals, historic preservationists, community activists, heritage and cultural tourism officials, genealogists, re-enactors, and a long list of others, including just plain old history buffs. We worry that Devin will find it difficult to succeed in his newly downgraded position within the New York State Museum. Continue reading

Devin Lander Appointed New York State Historian


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Devin LanderState Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia today announced the appointment of Devin Lander as New York’s State Historian. Lander, who currently serves as the Executive Director of the Museum Association of New York (MANY), is expected to join the Education Department on May 19, 2016.

The State Education Department, the Department’s Office of Cultural Education, and the State Museum have been under fire for their handling of the State Historian’s position in recent years, including their downgrading the job to a lesser-paid position reporting to the Chief Curator of the State Museum.  Among those critical of the decision to reduce the role of State Historian have been former State Historian Robert Weible and members of the Commission on Local and Public History, convened ten years ago by Deputy Commissioner for Cultural Education Carole Huxley to advise the Department of Education on the appointment of a State Historian. Continue reading

New York State Reduces Role of State Historian


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Cultural Education Center State Museum ArchivesThe role of New York State Historian has been downgraded by the Office of Cultural Education to a lesser paid position reporting to the Chief Curator of the State Museum.

Members of the historical community from across New York State – including former State Historian Robert Weible, who retired in July – had been quietly advocating for a stronger, more independent State Historian with a focus on Public History. Continue reading

Former NYS Historian Weible On State Ed Bureaucracy, Responsibilities


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State Education BuildingWhen New York’s governor appointed the first State Historian in 1895, the Progressive Era was just getting underway. The appointment was part of a much larger reform movement to strengthen American democracy by professionalizing government and promoting more active and knowledgeable civic participation in public affairs.

Progressives were especially focused on public education, and in 1911 – seven years after the establishment of the State Education Department  – New York moved its State Historian from the Governor’s office to the newly formed department. Continue reading

National Parks Maintenance Backlog Reaches $11.9 Billion


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National Park Service NPSThe National Park Service (NPS) has released its Fiscal Year 2015 deferred maintenance statistics for national parks. The $11.9 billion nationwide total was up from the $11.49 billion reported at the end of FY2014.

Locally, Women’s Rights National Historical Park has $1.4 million in deferred maintenance – part of the $11.9 billion deferred maintenance backlog across the National Park System. Continue reading