Category Archives: Public History

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

Peter Feinman:
Unexpected Deaths and Historical Memory


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The General Slocum disaster memorial in Tompkins Square Park, Manhattan, New York City, which was once in Little GermanyHow should we remember 9/11? I began to think about this more as the date for the opening of the 9/11 Museum neared. By coincidence, I was invited by City Wonders to take one of its tours and I chose the 9/11 Memorial Tour. This was just prior to the opening of the museum in May.

9/11 and that tour are responsible for the recent series of posts on remembering the dead. For me, it is important to understand 9/11 in context. That means not only the historical context in which the event occurred but the historical context in which we remember historical events. Our Thanksgivings, Christmases, and Passovers aren’t the same as our ancestors, nor is Memorial/Decoration Day. As a result, I began to write about different ways and circumstances in which we remember those who have died. Continue reading

Bob Cudmore: How ‘The Historians’ Came to WVTL Radio


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Bob Cudmore on WVTLMy first foray into local history was in 2000 when Steve Dunn and I co-produced the WMHT television documentary “Historic Views of the Carpet City: Amsterdam, N.Y.” Amsterdam is my home town. That same year my first book came out, self published. “You Can’t Go Wrong: Stories from Nero, N.Y. and Other Tales” was a compilation of satirical newspaper columns I had written for the Troy Record and Daily Gazette of Schenectady about Nero, a mythical Upstate New York city settled after all the good classical names such as Troy, Utica and Syracuse had been taken. Nero is a place so negative that “I don’t blame you” is a compliment.

In 2000 I pitched the Daily Gazette on doing “Focus on History”, stories from Montgomery and Fulton Counties. The column ran every other week until 2004 when it became a weekly fixture of the Saturday paper. Until his death last year, the column was edited by the Gazette’s incisive city editor Irv Dean. Continue reading

MANY Museum Institute To Focus On Advocacy


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MANY Museum Institute“Museums are Essential! Let people know!” – that’s the message the Museum Association of New York (MANY) is sending in its invitation to this year’s Museum Institute at Great Camp Sagamore in Raquette Lake, NY, taking place September 21st to 24th, 2014.

“Advocacy helps museums and other cultural institutions communicate what they do, why they do it and how it is of value – culturally, socially and economically,” MANY’s invitation says. “It offers a way to impart information and develop other people’s understanding. In doing this, it increases the visibility and profile of museums, which increases visitor numbers and funding!” Continue reading

Bruce Dearstyne:
Do We Need A State History Commission?


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nycapitolAssemblyman Steve Englebright’s bill (A. 6226A) to create a Commission on New York State History would help coordinate state programs and elevate and strengthen public history in New York.

“The state’s historical assets are world class destinations for visitors from around the world and should be promoted as such,” the bill declares. “Having the management, interpretation and promotion of the state’s historical assets spread among several agencies and departments has often been detrimental to the full utilization of these assets for the people of the state.” Continue reading

Remembering America’s Fallen In Every Community


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800px-American_military_cemetery_2003There is a special group of people who are remembered by a society. These are the fallen, those who die in battle on behalf of something larger than themselves. In the Bible there is an infrequently used term “nephilim” from the verb “to fall.”

Based on the archaeological evidence, the Nephilim appear to have been part of group who were remembered in Canaanite societies in the Middle and Late Bronze Age (second millennium BCE). These fallen warriors were remembered in feasts and stories just as warriors who have fallen in battle are still remembered today. It’s part of the human experience. Continue reading

Study: Fort Ticonderoga Generates $8.9M Impact


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Heilman 4Fort Ticonderoga has announced today the findings of a report that concludes the Fort generates $8.9 million annually in state and local economic impact.  The total includes visitor spending from tourists; spending by the Fort Ticonderoga Association in its daily operations; the indirect and induced impacts created by labor income as it flows into the regional economy; and tax revenue generated by that spending.

In 2013 the Fort Ticonderoga Association of Ticonderoga, NY commissioned Magellan Strategy Group to perform the study which utilized data provided by guests visiting Fort Ticonderoga in 2013 and IMPLAN software. According to a statement issued to the press “The study employed a conservative approach to measuring guest spending that evaluated only those expenditures that occurred as a result of visiting Fort Ticonderoga.” Continue reading

Hudson Valley Heritage Area Awards Grants


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hudson river valley heritage areaThe Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area and the Hudson River Valley Greenway highlighted five National Heritage Area Heritage Development Grants awarded to historic and cultural institutions in the Mid-Hudson Valley last week.

The National Park Service calls the Hudson River Valley “the landscape that defined America.” These small National Heritage Area Heritage Development Grants are expected to support a wide range of historic and cultural projects, including installations, demonstrations, and public outreach and education projects that will connect more people with the rich tapestry of heritage and cultural experiences in the Mid-Hudson Valley. Continue reading