Category Archives: Public History

History Resources To Watch In 2016


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New-York-State-Map1As we look forward to the new year ahead, we continue to search for and try out ideas that will strengthen state and local history here in New York.  What follows is a short list of resources that might be of interest:

Of course, the best place to publicize, monitor, and comment on historical programs and issues in our state is this New York History Blog. John Warren continues to provide a unique forum here to keep up with history community news and exchange ideas. Without this blog, we would not have any way to keep in touch. We wouldn’t be able to follow news from historical programs, updates on the work and role of local historians, or discussions of New York History Month, Path Through History, the State Historian’s position, or the proposed Museum Education Act, just to cite a few examples. But keeping the blog going requires support from the state’s history community. Continue reading

Help Keep The NY History Blog Going: Contribute


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NY HIstory Blog Logo 2015 CampaignIt’s that time of year again, when I’m on the stump asking for your help to finish funding the New York History Blog for 2015.

Over the past seven years this site has published over 5,000 stories about New York State history, we’ve promoted hundreds of history initiatives in an effort to foster a sense of shared mission and purpose among New York historians of every stripe – all because readers like you provided the little operating funds we need to keep going.

We’re now just $705 from our 2015 goal. Please help us with this final amount before the end of the year.

You can contribute to our Rally.org campaign here – https://rally.org/f/hmP6uuhdXnT – it’s easy and secure.

If you’ve already given this year, please consider a gift in the name of your favorite organization – or purchasing an advertisement for your next big event – it all goes toward the goal. If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me at jnwarrenjr@gmail.com.

My First Year As A Local History Librarian


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2015-12-12-ScannersIn mid-October, I marked my first anniversary as the “local history librarian” at the White Plains Public Library. Four years earlier, I was a library clerk at an urban public library trying to figure out how to make a job out of my seemingly varied interests. I liked direct service, helping people, but I also valued more solitary, research driven work. I knew Intellectual freedom and a progressive, supportive community were a necessary part of any job I might hold, but I did not want to obtain a PhD or set out on my own for the wilds of self-employment. I knew I loved education, but I didn’t want to be a teacher. So the world has another librarian.

Through a friend, I began working at Albany Public Library as a Library Clerk and found the public library united my passions for working with people and knowledge in a democratic, autonomous space. Librarians can be educators without being constricted by the bureaucracy that comes with teaching. Librarians can also be historians, but don’t have to work within the traditional academic or museum systems, where publishing requirements or institutional obligations can take up lots of time. Attracted as I am to intellectual autonomy and the propagation of alternative historical voices, working as a local history librarian looked like a perfect opportunity to see if I could manifest some of these values. Continue reading

Regents Makes Museum Education Act A Priority


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CapitolThe New York State Board of Regents has made the Museum Education Act (MEA) a Legislative Priority for 2016. The Act would provide museums and other eligible institutions access to grant funding to conduct curriculum-based educational programs for students and teachers in grades pre-kindergarten through grade twelve and adults enrolled in continuing education programs.

The grants are expected to be competitive in nature and could be used for a variety of curriculum-based educational programming, including funding for the transportation of students to museums or museum staff to classrooms. Continue reading

Recent Lower Hudson Valley History Meeting Highlights


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hudson valleyIn recent weeks I have had the opportunity to attend and participate in three regional and county history community meetings. These included the annual meeting of the Greater Hudson Heritage Network; a meeting of Region 3 (mainly the Hudson Valley) of the Association of Public Historians in New York State (APHNYS); and the Sullivan County History Conference

These three meetings provided opportunities to meet with colleagues, discuss important issues, and learn what’s happening. What follows are some highlights from those meetings. Continue reading

Museum of the City of New York Names New President, Director


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DONHAUSER-facebookJumboThe Board of Trustees of the Museum of the City of New York has appointed Whitney W. Donhauser President and Director of the Museum. She will join the City Museum on January 1, 2016, succeeding Susan Henshaw Jones who is retiring at the end of the year.

Whitney W. Donhauser has had a 23-year career in museum management and fundraising. As Senior Advisor to the President of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Donhauser worked with the Museum’s Board of Trustees, Director, President, and executive leadership on formulating and implementing Museum policy. Continue reading

Converting A Historic Jail To Women’s Activism


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Women exchanging ideas. Photo:Kathleen HulserArt deco murals, decorative brick work, mosaics – not quite what you expect to encounter at a women’s prison. The Bayview Women’s Correctional Facility at 550 West 20th Street in Manhattan was built in 1931 as a YMCA for merchant sailors. Converted to a prison, it was closed after Superstorm Sandy flooding and is now being converted to a Women’s Building. As an adaptive reuse, the main building will be preserved with some elements that reflect the history, even as the site is re-purposed as a women-focused community facility. Continue reading

Johanna Yaun On Municipal Historians


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hathornhouseNew York has 932 towns, 547 villages, and 62 cities. Each one of them is required by State law to appoint a Municipal Historian.

To most people, this sounds like a quirky mandate, especially considering that there’s no requirement to provide a salary or storage space to maintain local records. Also, you may remember a Municipal Historian presenting a slide show at your elementary school or at a community festival where you may have developed an appreciation for their work – or perhaps been unimpressed because of how out-of-touch they were. Continue reading

NY State History Month: Another View


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New York State History MonthNovember is New York State History Month. The goal of this initiative certainly is a worthy one. Naturally as historians, a primary source document such as a press release invites a close reading of the text. That’s what historians do and government publications are not exempt from such scrutiny. The exercise is quite productive and one can learn a lot from doing it.
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RIP The Path Through History Taskforce


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Path Through History FailOnce upon a time, as all good fairy tales begin, there was a New York State Path through History Taskforce. Some of you may even remember it. August 28, 2015, marked the three-year anniversary of the failed project and since the NYS Historian who was a member of that taskforce has resigned, it is beneficial to examine the fate of this taskforce for the lessons it teaches about what happened. Will we learn from the past or are we condemned to repeat it?

At the kickoff event for the Path project, attendees received two glossy, multicolored booklets. One had a list of the “iconic highway signage” which was to be produced; the other had the conference agenda, a description of the regions with a listing of the selected sites, and the taskforce bios. Continue reading

Bruce Dearstyne: Highlighting Albany’s Heritage


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1024px-North_Pearl_Street_Albany_1800sAlbany is a historic city! Its website includes a history of the city. Kathy Sheehan, campaigning for Mayor in 2012, cited its “deep and palpable history” as one of its assets and one of the bases for its potential development in the future. As Mayor, she initiated the Albany Heritage Tourism Initiative and gave a very impressive talk on “Albany: Our History, Our Future,” emphasizing its potential for heritage tourism at the kick-off luncheon for New York History Month organized by the University Club in November 2014.

One of her key themes was connections — among Albany’s historical buildings, its history organizations such as the Albany Institute of History and Art, and state sites such as the State Museum and Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site. Continue reading

Johanna Yaun: Trends in Heritage Tourism


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eriehotelHeritage tourism is a new name for an old concept. As an archaeology student in Greece, I remember seeing Lord Byron’s name carved on the Temple of Poseidon. His mark among the hundreds of forgotten names reminds us of the well-established motif of traveling to the classical world as part of the Grand Tour. The German word “Bildungsreisen,” used among the nineteenth century elite in Europe, described travel for educational and cultural enlightenment. Continue reading

Comments Sought On Historic Lake Champlain Islands, Facilities


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Bluff_Point_Light_on_Valcour_IslandThe New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has issued a Draft Lake Champlain Islands Management Complex Unit Management Plan (Draft UMP) in compliance with the Adirondack State Land Master Plan. The plan includes a number of historic and recreational sites.

Public comments on the plan are being accepted through September 18, 2015. A Public Meeting on the Draft UMP will be held August 20th in Plattsburgh. Continue reading

Susan B. Anthony Reenactor Barbara Blaisdell


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The Historians LogoThis week “The Historians” podcast features an interview with Barbara Blaisdell, an independent reenactor who has been portraying Susan B. Anthony for 24 years including appearances at the National Susan B. Anthony House and Museum in Rochester, N.Y. Blaisdell (and Susan B. Anthony) explore the opinions of the human rights leader on women’s rights, slavery and temperance.

Listen at “The Historians” online archive. “The Historians” podcast is also heard each Monday at 11:30 am and Wednesday at 11 am on RISE, WMHT’s radio service for the blind and print disabled in New York’s Capital Region and Hudson Valley.

“The Historians” podcast is recorded at Dave Greene’s East Line Studio. You can support this podcast by making a contribution to “The Historians” GoFundMe page: http://www.gofundme.com/TheHistorians

The State Historian and the Future of New York History


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Seal of New York StateThe position of New York State Historian was created in 1895. The Historian was appointed by the Governor until 1911, when the position was moved to the State Education Department. Since that time, it has been located in a number of offices including the Office of State History (1966-1976), and since then, in the State Museum.

State Historians’ job descriptions and priorities have varied over the years as well. The first State Historian, Hugh Hastings (1895-1907), had been a New York Times reporter and concentrated on documentary publications. The next one, Victor Hugo Paltsits (1907-1911), a librarian and expert in colonial history, was known for meticulous editing of published editions and laid the basis for expanding the position into the area of archives. Alexander C. Flick (1923-1939) edited and led the publication of a multi-volume history of the state. Louis L. Tucker (1966-1976) held the titles of State Historian and Assistant Commissioner for State History in the Office of State History and, in the early 1970’s, was also Executive Director of the New York State American Revolution Bicentennial Commission. Continue reading

Mohawk Country Heritage Association Forms


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Picture1The Fort Plain Museum is taking the lead in organizing a new marketing association for the Mohawk Valley’s numerous 18th century historic sites.  The new association will work to promote eight historic sites in western Montgomery County all within 4 to 6 miles of Exit 29 on the New York State Thruway.

Billed as “Mohawk Country, America’s First Frontier” the association’s first marketing effort has targeted the month of July. Continue reading