Category Archives: Public History

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

Yes, The NYS History Community Should Lobby


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CapitolIn one of those gentle ironies of life, Peter Feinman’s recent NY History Blog column, “Should the History Community Lobby?”, was positioned on the page next to a sidebar of recent history-related news stories which included the headline: “More than $200 million spent on NYS lobbying, report finds.”

As a professional lobbyist, and amateur historian, my response to Mr. Feinman’s question is a decided “Yes!” But that’s pretty much the kind of answer one would expect from someone in my profession. It’s the juxtaposition of his column with another story, confirming the magnitude of the role lobbying plays in New York, which is so telling.

But saying we should be lobbying is a lot like proclaiming “We should have more prosperity.” It’s a great idea, but it’s not quite as simple as that. Continue reading

Peter Feinman: The Rockland County State of History


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Rockland CountyRockland is a compact county located along the border of New Jersey to the south, and the Hudson River to the east. It broke away from the more sprawling Orange County to the north in 1798, in part due to the challenge of governing an area split by the Ramapo Mountains.

Over the years, the area has been home to various peoples who didn’t fit in with the larger Dutch and English populations. The county consists of five towns including one with over 100,000 people, more than one-third the county’s total population. There are 19 villages and numerous hamlets. Continue reading

Lewis County Holding Annual Meeting of Historians


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Lewis County MapThe Lewis County Historical Society is holding its 3rd annual meeting of historians and others interested in local history and cultural resources this Saturday, April 26, 2014 at 10:00 a.m. at the Society, 7552 South State Street, Lowville, NY.

All town and village historians, historical societies, museums, and libraries in Lewis County are being invited along with the general public. What follows is the day’s schedule: Continue reading

What Museum Directors Can Learn From Game of Thrones


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game of thronesI’m usually the first to groan, occasionally quite loudly, when museum leaders tap into popular culture to gratuitously make their own points, especially when using the most tenuous of connections to justify otherwise unrelated programming in the name of increasing visibility.  And what possibly could the fictional, pseudo-medieval realm of Westeros, currently being fought over in its fourth season on HBO, have to teach museum directors?

After all, some of the series’ hallmarks—rampant nudity, murder, profanity, sex, and even incest (and all that in just the first episode)—tend to have very little to do with presenting the past to our modern guests, other than, of course, that it reflects the operative imperative of human nature that informs our work: people are messy, which is what makes telling their stories, and telling them well, such a terribly compelling endeavor. Continue reading