Category Archives: Public History

History Education and Teaching Social Studies

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SchoolTeaching is in the news. Especially the apparent lack of it. The initial test results under the Common Core standards are abysmal and they are wreaking its havoc in the school systems of America. The Common Core now being implemented may not be garner the same attention as Obamacare, but it has generated considerable vociferous and intense condemnation, including calls to cease and desist here in New York. John King, the Commissioner of Education in NYS, cancelled his original statewide tour of public forums when the first one spun out of control, although he has begun a new round.

The new social studies curriculum is scheduled for 2015, the first update since 1996. That curriculum is sure to be a topic of discussion at the annual conference of the New York State Council of Social Studies in Albany in March.  The theme of the conference is “Linking Communities Together: Academic, Civic and Cultural.” Continue reading

Montgomery County Receives State Archives Award

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Archives 2013 Awards_115The New York State Archives and the Archives Partnership Trust have selected Montgomery County to receive the 2013 William H. Kelly Annual Archives Award for Excellence in Local Government Archival Program Development.

This award recognizes a local government for its overall development of a soundly administered archival program and advocacy in promoting the identification, protection, preservation and use of archival local government records. Continue reading

Peter Feinman: Lessons from Connecticut

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map_of_connecticut_1824Our neighbor state has been trying to promote the teaching of history in the schools. The Connecticut League of History Organizations (CLHO), an organization similar to the Museum Association of New York, sent a notice to its members to take a survey with the message: “We NEED your help to get Connecticut history into the hands of Connecticut teachers and students.”

The goal of this effort was stated as “LET OUR TEACHERS KNOW THAT CONNECTICUT HISTORY IS ALIVE AND WELL.”  CLHO asked the question which could be asked in New York as well: “Connecticut’s history rarely ever makes it into the classrooms in our state. Why?” Continue reading

The Politics of Harriet Tubman and Barack Obama

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Harriet Tubman Home in Auburn, NYIt’s the centennial year of abolitionist and suffragist Harriet Tubman’s death in 1913. Her Auburn, NY house, the home for the aged she founded on the property, and the museum attract considerable attention in upstate New York. We visited the Tubman historic site on the fifth day of our fall 2013 blogging tour of the “Cradle of the women’s rights movement in the US.” Continue reading

NY Libraries Joining Digital Public Library of America

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indexThe Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) announced the addition of three new Service Hubs  – Empire State Digital Network (New York), The Portal to Texas History (Texas), and the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center (North Carolina) – that are expected to bring hundreds of thousands of new digital materials into the DPLA collections in the coming weeks and months. Continue reading

Peter Feinman: Cashing In On Halloween

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Sleepy HallowHalloween is boffo at the box office. It’s not your father’s Halloween. In recent years the holiday has soared in prominence and become an economic powerhouse. Time magazine had an article in its culture section entitled “Monsters Inc.: Inside the Weird World of Professional haunting.” This was a followup to last year’s smaller article on “Tombstone Tourism: A Second Life for Cemeteries.” The New York Times published “House Haunters” while my local paper had a front-page article “In the Lower Hudson Halloween Is SCARY-BIG BUSINESS.” Clearly something big is occurring and historic organizations often are cashing in. Continue reading

Finger Lakes Boating Museum Locating In Hammondsport

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FLBMThe Finger Lakes Boating Museum has announced that they will be locating at the south end of Keuka Lake in the Village of Hammondsport, Town of Urbana, Steuben County.

Mercury Aircraft, which operates in Hammondsport, owns the former Taylor Wine Co. buildings located just south of the Village of Hammondsport on Pleasant Valley Road. The president of Mercury, Joseph “Bud” Meade III, is making a 14-acre parcel available to the Boating Museum. Continue reading

New York State History Month: What Can We Do?

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poster1997lgNovember is New York State History Month. The purpose, according to Section 52.02 of the state Arts and Cultural Affairs Law is to “celebrate the history of New York State and recognize the contributions of state and local historians.”

State Historian Bob Weible’s very informative October 22 post on the history of History Month reminds us that “its fate really depends on us.”

That’s certainly true for History Month, and true for the future of the historical enterprise generally. Continue reading

Cultural Groups Keep Helping After Sandy

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NY Council for the HumanitiesWhen Hurricane Sandy hit New York, it revealed the constructive role cultural groups can play as community hubs and service providers, particularly in troubling times. Many cultural organizations responded to this terrible storm by helping out in ways big and small, from distributing emergency resources, to extending hours, to acting as gathering places where people could hear the news and plug in their cell phones. In doing so, these local libraries, museums, and cultural institutions showed their importance as community anchors at a time when New Yorkers needed it most.

At the same time, Sandy’s waters didn’t discriminate, and many cultural organizations across the city were affected: libraries lost collections, historic sites were compromised, and museums were forced to close their doors for extensive clean up. Continue reading

Towers of Babel: New York’s Historical Enterprise

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home_revolutionHistory’s Babel: Scholarship, Professionalization, and Historical Enterprise in the United States, 1880-1940, by Robert B. Townsend was just reviewed on H-Net. While I will not be purchasing the book (I have enough to read already!), the review struck home. .

The author was the deputy director of the American Historical Association (AHA) and much of the book is through the prism of that organization. As one might expect from the title, Townsend’s concern is the fragmentation of the historical enterprise into bunch of organizations that do not speak to each other. Does that sound at all like the New York historical enterprise today? Continue reading

Bob Weible: Is NYS History Month Dead?

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poster1997lgIt’s true.  November is New York State History Month.

In 1997, New York’s legislature added Section 57.02 to the state’s Arts and Cultural Affairs Law and 1) designated November as New York State History Month, 2) defined the purpose of the month as the celebration of state history and the recognition of the contributions of state and local historians, and 3) authorized the Education Department to undertake projects to recognize the month (while the legislation failed to identify any specific projects, it did suggest student essay contests as one possibility). Continue reading

The New York History Blog Needs Your Support

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I’ve received a number of e-mails, phone calls, and comments since announcing last week that The New York History Blog needed the support of the history community it serves in order to keep operating.

The response was promising, so I’ve set up a fundraising mechanism through, a very reputable crowd-funding site (used by Senator Elizabeth Warren and the Make-A-Wish Foundation, among others). Continue reading

Carol Ash Elected to Palisades Park Conservancy Board

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Carol_Ash_2013_0Former Palisades Interstate Park Commission Executive Director and New York State Parks Commissioner Carol Ash has been elected to serve a three-year term on the Palisades Parks Conservancy Board of Directors.

During her career in the fields of natural and cultural resources preservation, Carol Ash has served as the first director of the Office of Environmental Policy and Management for the Port Authority of NY and NJ, the NYC Regional Director of the NYS DEC, the PIPC Executive Director, and the NY State Parks Commissioner. Continue reading

What Works: Flashback to Your Community’s Heritage

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Capitol TheatreOn September 30, the recently reopened historic Capitol Theatre in the village of Port Chester in the Town of Rye, in the county of Westchester, founded in the days of vaudeville, beloved by the Grateful Dead, rechristened by Bob Dylan, and just host to Willie Nelson, hosted Flashbacks. 

A musical to the history of the town written by local sisters and educators Camille Linen and Donna Cribari, Flashbacks tells the story of high school students who complete a historical multimedia project and are drawn to the local river that mysteriously produces figures from the town’s past as primary source documents. Continue reading

Can The Women’s Rights Trail Become Reality?

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2-HouseSignThe federal government shutdown in Washington, DC may have dimmed the lights at the Elizabeth Cady Stanton house in Seneca Falls, NY, at the visitors’ center, Wesleyan Chapel, and other park site locations. But it didn’t deter our determination to continue on the blogging tour of the “Cradle of the Women’s Rights Movement in the US” that has kept us busy.

Seneca Falls took up most of our fourth day on this blogging tour that also included Johnstown, Fayetteville, Auburn, Rochester, and Farmington. Identifying what constitutes the “cradle” is an informal process we devised that highlights key locations of activism located in a geographic area of the Finger Lakes region in upstate New York that suggests a cradle shape. Continue reading

New Map, App Feature NY Underground Railroad Sites

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NYSUGRR_Map_600Federal and state partners have recently released a new online map and mobile app to help people explore New York State’s connection to abolitionism and the Underground Railroad. The map includes sites, programs and tours that have been approved by the National Park Service Network to Freedom Program or the New York State Underground Railroad Heritage Trail.

New York State was a gateway for many African Americans seeking to escape slavery in the 1800s. Its prime location, with access to Canada and major water routes, made it the destination of choice for many Africans fleeing slavery along the eastern seaboard. The interactive map was created to tie New York State’s individual sites together, but also connect them to the longer string of sites that comprise the entire Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. Continue reading

In Johnstown, Hope for Votes for Women Trail Funding

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piano-72-LittleIt’s late afternoon in Johnstown, NY, magic hour, right before sunset when filmmakers capture the best lighting. Nancy Brown, a fifth grade teacher, is waiting to take us to the local historical society and out to dinner with three other board members of the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Hometown Association.

This is the town where well-known women’s rights activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton grew up. The place is also loaded with history of the American Revolution, plus generations of tanners and workers in the glove industry who lived and worked here. We can’t get to the Johnstown Historical Society at 17 North William Street without passing sites of major historical interest. It’s as if everybody is related in some way to this historical community. It looks like classic small town America, made in America. Continue reading

The Purpose of Historical Societies:
The Westchester Experience

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Westchester CountyWestchester County decided that historical heritage is not important. It is too insignificant to waste any time, energy, and effort supporting.

I was reminded of this reality in a recent article in the local paper entitled “Hotels Get Upscale Updates.”  Coincidentally, the hotel is where the annual conference of social studies teachers in the Lower Hudson Valley had been held until this year. In fact, according to the article the $15,000,000 renovation followed the $12,000,000 renovation at the hotel where we will be meeting this year. Continue reading

Concerted Action to Strengthen the Historical Enterprise: What Others Are Doing

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NYSPeter Feinman’s September 18th post describes discussions leading toward more cooperation, a more concerted approach to the historical enterprise here in New York, and hopefully a meeting to get things going.

That is a very encouraging development.

The needs, and opportunities, for cooperative action have been under discussion at least since the plenary session at the state history conference in Plattsburgh in 2009 on “Do We Need a Vision for New York State History?” Continue reading