Category Archives: Public History

MANY And Advocacy For The NYS History Community


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nycapitolIn this post, I wish to focus attention on recent developments involving the Museum Association of New York (MANY) and opportunities for advocacy on behalf of the history community.

MANY has undergone significant changes which are of importance to the history community, though it should be noted that the organization’s membership is not limited to historical museums, but also include art and science museums, zoos, botanical gardens and aquariums. Continue reading

Report: ‘Great Estates Region’ Brings $65M in Economic Benefits


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Great Estates RegionA new study has found that New York’s historic “Great Estates Region” brought approximately $65 million in economic benefits to Dutchess County.  The study, “The Economic Importance of the Great Estates Historic Sites & Parks,” focuses on the positive economic impacts that 12 federal, state and private nonprofit historic sites and parks bring to Dutchess County and other parts of the Hudson River Valley region.

Expanding the picture beyond Dutchess County’s borders, the study finds that in 2012, nearly 1.7 million paid visitors came to the region’s historic sites, spending about $60 million in the area, including $47 million from non-local visitors. The study, which was organized by the Taconic Region of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, was completed pro-bono by Urbanomics, Inc., a Manhattan-based consulting firm. Continue reading

November Is New York State History Month


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New York State History MonthNovember is New York State History Month, designated by Section 52.04 of the Arts and Cultural Affairs Law as the time “to celebrate the history of New York state and recognize the contributions of state and local historians.”

This is the perfect time to get some well-deserved recognition for officially designated local government historians, historical societies, and others who are preserving, interpreting, and presenting state and local history. It should be a particularly good opportunity for local government historians — their appointments are authorized by law and State History Month is designated by law. Continue reading

The State of Municipal Historians in New York


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new-york-county-mapNew 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

Guest Essay:
Path Through History Highlights Historic Assets


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PrintWhat follow is an guest essay by Mark Castiglione – Acting Executive Director, Hudson River Valley Greenway and Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area, and Path Through History Workgroup Liaison; and Ross D. Levi – Vice President, Marketing Initiatives, Empire State Development

Even though few states have had as much impact on history or are home to as many authentic historic attractions, New York State has not always come to mind for history lovers as quickly as places like Boston, Philadelphia, and Virginia.   In an effort to help change this perception, Governor Cuomo created the Path Through History [PTH] initiative to draw attention to New York’s unparalleled history and grow heritage tourism throughout the state, and through it promote economic development and create jobs. As we conclude the busy summer travel season, it’s worth noting how far we have come in promoting heritage tourism in New York as well as the future opportunities that exist to expand the effort. Continue reading

NYS Open Space Conservation Plan Comments Sought


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NYS Open Space PlanThe Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) have released the 2014 State Open Space Conservation Plan for public comment.  The plan guides State Environmental Protection Fund investments in open space protection.  Public comments on the draft plan will be accepted from until December 17 and a series of public hearings will be held across the state from October 21 to October 23.

What follows is a recently issued press release: Continue reading

Museums Mean Business: NYS Museum Impacts


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MANY LogoThe deadline for proposals for the Museum Association of New York (MANY) 2015 Museums in Action Conference, October 4th, is growing near.  This year the theme of the conference is “Museums Mean Business”.  You can learn more about the conference, which will be held April 12th through the 14th, 2015, at the Corning Museum of Glass, in Corning, NY, here.

Here are some details about the economic impact of museums and cultural organizations in New York State and nationally, provided by MANY: Continue reading

Fort Ticonderoga Names New Board Members


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Aug 2014 morningFort Ticonderoga named four members to its Board of Trustees: Dr. Eliot Cohen, Washington, DC; Dr. John Macionis, Mount Vernon, Ohio; Craig Treiber, Long Island, New York; and Susan Darrin, Hague, New York.

The Fort Ticonderoga Association preserves North America’s largest 18th-century artillery collection, 2,000 acres of historic landscape on Lake Champlain, the Carillon Battlefield, and the largest series of untouched 18th-century earthworks surviving in America. Continue reading

Ignoring New York’s 350th Birthday


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Articles about the Transfer of New Netherland on the 27th of August, Old Style, Anno 1664One of the news items in a recent summary of “This Week’s Top New York History News” here at The New York History Blog had a link to an article from the Albany Times Union (reprinted from the New York Times), entitled “New York Won’t Celebrate 350th Birthday.” The article noted that neither the city nor the state was commemorating the takeover of New Netherland by the British in August, 1664.

The writer suggested that “a dispassion for the past” among the public was a basic explanation. Continue reading

Path through History: Some Modest Proposals


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Path Through historyWhat 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

Mount Vernon Hotel Museum Names New Director


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Mount Vernon Hotel Museum and GardenThe Mount Vernon Hotel Museum & Garden at 421 East 61st Street in Manhattan has announced the promotion of Acting Director Terri Daly to Museum Director.

A graduate of Xavier University in Cincinnati, Daly holds an M.B.A. from the Leonard N. Stern School of Business, New York University. She joined the Mount Vernon Hotel Museum & Garden in 2003 and has held positions as Interpreter, Educator, and most recently Marketing Manager. Continue reading

The Battle of Plattsburgh: 200 Years Of Forgetting


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1816 BaltimoreBOPDisplay“The naval battle of Lake Champlain was probably the greatest feat of arms that our navy achieved in the War of 1812,” said Franklin D. Roosevelt.

From Secretary of Navy William Jones on Oct. 3, 1814: “To view it in abstract, it is not surpassed by any naval victory on record. To appreciate its result, it is perhaps one of the most important events in the history of our country.”

According to Penn University historian John B. McMaster, it was “the greatest naval battle of the war,” and Thomas Macdonough was “the ablest sea-captain our country has produced.”

Like McMaster, author and historian Teddy Roosevelt called it “the greatest naval battle of the war,” and praised Commodore Thomas Macdonough thusly: “Down to the time of the Civil War, he is the greatest figure in our naval history. … he was skillful and brave. One of the greatest of our sea captains, he has left a stainless name behind him.” And one more: looking back, Sir Winston Churchill said it “was a decisive battle of the war.” Continue reading

Nominations For Endangered Long Island List Sought


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First_National_Bank_and_Trust_CompanyHistoric properties spanning the length of Long Island are regularly threatened by a variety of complex issues that all point to a need for their greater appreciation and protection.

The Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities (SPLIA) launched its inaugural List of Endangered Historic Places in 2010 to broadly educate the public about the region’s wide range of historic environments and provide support and greater visibility to local efforts working to save at-risk resources. Continue reading

2 Years Of Path Through History: Who IS In Charge?


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Path Through historyAugust 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

Lower Hudson Valley Public Historians Meeting


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APHNYS-Regions-Map1The Association of Public Historians of New York State (APHNYS), Region 3, will hold its 2014 meeting on Saturday, September 20, 2014 from 9:45 am to 2:00 pm at the Westchester County historical Society, 2199 Saw Mill River Road, Elmsford, NY. Region 3 includes Dutchess, Putnam, Westchester, Rockland, and Orange counties.

Registration for the 2014 APHNYS Region 3 Meeting should be mailed to: Suzanne Isaksen, APHNYS Region 3 Coordinator, 10 Windrift Lane, Walden, NY 12586-1524. Include the names and titles (e.g. “Town of Montgomery Historian”) of attendees, along with telephone and e-mail contact information. A fee of $10.00 per person is being charged to help defray costs of lunch and refreshments. Make checks payable to APHNYS. Continue reading

Chappaqua Doesn’t Exist! Peter Feinman On Place


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ChappaquaFD4Chappaqua 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

Grant Supports Dutchess County Driving Tour


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CESOC2005P4The Hudson River Valley Greenway has announced that it has awarded Dutchess County and the Town of Clinton a $9,500 matching grant to “fund driving tour enhancements that will encourage more tourist activity in the northern reaches of the county.”

“With these improvements, Dutchess County hopes to offer a more complete tourism experience in these rural communities, particularly to motorists already visiting major attractions in the better publicized southern half of the county, such as the Culinary Institute of America, Vanderbilt Mansion, the Roosevelt sites, and the Dutchess County Fair,” the announcement to the press said, adding: Continue reading

Paul Bray: Help Abandoned State Heritage Areas


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Heritage Areas MapA few years ago a delegation of environmentalists and officials from the Adirondack Park visited Lake Baikal in Russia.  So large that it is often mistaken for a sea, Lake Baikal is the deepest and largest (by volume) freshwater lake in the world, and thought to be the world’s oldest as well. Famous for its crystal clear waters and unique wildlife, the lake is under threat by pollution, poaching and development.

An Adirondack lawyer on the trip told me that they had a boat ride with a group of Russians. One of the Russians said to him “Why are we wasting our time with Americans? Russia has a culture that produced great writers like Dostoyevsky, Pushkin, Turgenev and Chekhov, great musicians like Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Shostakovich, and Rimsky-Korsakov and great dancers like Baryshnikov, Nureyev, and Nijinsky. What has America contributed to the world?” Continue reading

NYS Archives Consolidates Doc Heritage Program


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archives 2The New York State Archivist has announced that the State’s Archives Documentary Heritage Program’s (DHP) regional archival services are being consolidated in a move that critics say will diminish the effectiveness of the popular historical records program.

In a message sent in May, New York State Archivist Christine Ward announced the changes, which eliminated the DHP’s regional administrators at the end of June and will replace them with a single, statewide administrator under a five-year contract. Continue reading

A Good Story: The Lifeblood of a Public Historian


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Tell A Good StoryAlmost everyone within sniffing distance of public history these days, in any capacity, is on the lookout for the silver bullet that will somehow “rescue” their particular site, or organization, or even the entire field, from the edge of a financial ruin.

For many boards and staff, technology has become the most sexy aphrodisiac around. Even though I haven’t yet seen it effectively used, partly because it becomes dated so quickly, museum and other sites continue to reach for phone tours, or apps, or touch screens, to add that extra element of engagement that will magically connect to those ever-elusive younger audiences that sites yearn to attract. Continue reading