Category Archives: Public History

Proposed Museum of Political Corruption Seeks Support


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Museum of Political CorruptionThere is a campaign to build The Museum of Political Corruption in Albany, New York. The campaign was started by and is being lead by College of Saint Rose Professor Bruce Craig Roter. With it’s motto of “it’s funny, but it’s serious”, it’s hoped the Museum will be a unique tourist attraction.

The museum is expected to serve as a reminder and cautionary tale to elected officials to uphold the high ethical standards demanded of their offices. “While there will be a good amount of humor, it will be used as a gateway to examine the serious subject of corruption in NY state politics,” Roter told The New York History Blog. “Museum goers will pay entrance bribes rather than fees, refreshments will be served at the Cozy Crony Cafe, and the museum auditorium will be called Tammany Hall.” Continue reading

Cultural Heritage Fail: The American Revolution in NYS


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John Van Arsdale raising the american flag over Fort GeorgeNew 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

Peter Feinman: Historical Societies In A Hyphenated Age


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9RegionsOfNorthAmericaCan 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

Heritage Tourism and Immigration in New York State


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220px-Statue_of_Liberty_1917_posterImmigration 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

Bruce Dearstyne: The Proposed NYS History Commission


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nycapitolLast week, Assemblyman Steve Englebright held a “roundtable” on his bill to create a Commission on New York State History (Assembly 6226-A) at the Legislative Office Building in Albany.

I was unaware of the bill before being invited to attend and speak at the meeting, but was very encouraged after reading the bill, and even more encouraged after hearing from Assemblyman Englebright. The proposed Commission is the most promising development in state and local history policy in several years.

The bill has the potential to lead and coordinate activities and programs that now operate mostly in isolation from each other, provide support and advice for historical programs, strengthen the role of officially designated local historians, foster more extensive and creative use of public history, encourage the use of technology, help with heritage tourism, and overall strengthen the state’s historical enterprise. Continue reading

New York’s History Community to Convene


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New-York-State-Map1When the Conference on New York State History meets at Marist College in Poughkeepsie on June 12-14, 2014, it will—as always—bring together scholars to present and discuss their latest work in New York State history.

Sessions will include a New York Academy of History panel led by Columbia University’s Kenneth T. Jackson on the past, present, and future of New York’s urban and suburban history; a panel sponsored by the New York Council for the Humanities featuring leading scholars of public history, historical memory, and architecture addressing “September 11 and the Battle for American Memory;” a Hudson River Valley Institute-sponsored panel on the Hudson River School aesthetic and the formation of a national identity; and a lot more.

It will include more in the way of scholarship, to be sure—but also much more than that. Continue reading

Slavery And The New York State History Community


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DSCN5667Slavery 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

Heritage Tourism And Sullivan County


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FortMarketFaire13There seems to be a great movement underway in recent years—the European Union is a good example—to make all places the same or at least more like each other.  This global homogenization, for want of a better term, has threatened national identities and it has also created new challenges for those areas whose economies have been dependent upon heritage tourism.

Heritage tourism is defined by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as “traveling to experience the places, artifacts and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past,” but it is only viable if different places have different stories to tell.  Eliminating differences makes that a real challenge. Continue reading

Legislation Would Create A NYS History Commission


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nycapitolRecently 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

War of 1812 Historians Meeting Planned


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APHNYS-Regions-Map1Registration is now open for the special one-day Association of Public Historians of New York State (APHNYS) Region 6 conference to be held in Plattsburgh on Friday June 6, 2014 (with early arrival museum tour on Thursday evening June 5).

The conference focus is on the War of 1812,and specifically the Battle of Plattsburgh of September, 1814 with a focus on “how the community has embraced the annual commemoration of the Battle of Plattsburgh, and the excitement about the 200th anniversary commemoration upcoming this Fall, with international participation and events spanning three weeks.” Organizers are expected to  share their experiences of how this sentinel event brings together the community, historians, municipalities and visitors to gain a better appreciation of the unique position this area holds in history.” Continue reading

Essex County Historical Society Appoints New Director


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indexmap3Ticonderoga resident Diane O’Connor has joined The Essex County Historical Society as director. She replaces Margaret Gibb, who led the organization for more than 14 years and recently joined Lakes to Locks Passage as program director.

O’Connor brings to her new position more than 20 years of experience in non-profit management for diverse organizations, including The National Genealogical Society, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites (now the Civil War Preservation Trust). Most recently, she worked at Fort Ticonderoga. Continue reading

Erie Canal Economic Revitalization Program Planned


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buffalo canal eventThe legacy of industry, the can-do spirit that fueled construction of the canal system, and the nationally-recognized architecture in the Canalway Corridor are unique elements of the region’s heritage.

Ideas about how to tap them to fuel investment in the 21st century innovation economy in your community will be presented at Where Canal Meets Commercial Corridor: Unlocking Entrepreneurial Opportunities in Your Downtown, a day-long presentation sponsored by the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor in Buffalo on Wednesday, June 18, 2014. Continue reading

Catherine Gilbert Out As MANY Executive Director


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Catherine Gilbert MANYThe Board of Directors of the Museum Association of New York (MANY) has announced that the organization current Executive Director Catherine Gilbert will “transition out of the Association to pursue new opportunities.”  Gilbert began with the organization in 2008 as Director of Museumwise and continued as director of MANY after the 2012 consolidation of the two organizations.

The board has named Devin Lander as the organization’s new Executive Director, effective June 2, 2014. “Devin brings years of legislative and advocacy work built on a foundation of museum and cultural heritage experience,” according to a statement MANY issued this week. Continue reading

Learning From New England History Programs


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New England MapThere 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

Bruce Dearstyne On Lobbying at Albany


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nycapitolPeter Feinman and Tom Shanahan’s recent posts (1, 2) on lobbing were very informative and enlightening. To make progress, though, the state’s historical community would need at least three things.

One, leadership in Albany. This might come from the State Historian, State Historic Preservation Officer, State Archivist, or an association such as the New York State Historical Association or the Association of Public Historians of New York State. Better yet would be leadership from a consortium broadly representing the state’s historical community, such as a new State History Council. This has been under consideration for a number of years, dating back at least to the plenary session at the 2009 State History Conference in Plattsburgh on the status and future of state history, and discussed in the 2011 special issue of the Public Historian, “Strengthening the Management of State History: Issues, Perspectives, and Insights from New York.” Continue reading

Notes On A High School Local History Conference


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SchoolThe 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

Submit Path Through History Events Online Now


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Path Through History 2014Event submission for the New York State’s Path Through History Weekends Calendar is now available. The Path Through History Weekends will be held this year on June 7-8 and 14-15.

In 2012 Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled the “Path Through History” program, a statewide tourism and economic development initiative that links historically and culturally significant sites, locations, and events via roadside signage, an online calendar, and two Path Through History Weekends in June. Continue reading