November 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.
Governor Cuomo issued a Press Release on November 2 launching the new “Path Through History” website. That alone was encouraging. But he did it “in recognition of New York State History Month.” This is the first time, so far as I know, that any governor has recognized NYS History Month, which has been on the statute books since 1997. Continue reading
New York State has heritage areas – 19, scattered around the state.
The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation (NYSOPRHP) defines these areas on its website: Continue reading
Once 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
Albany 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
Heritage 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
The sudden retirement of Bob Weible, the New York State Historian, provides an opportunity to reassess the position. What does the history community want from the state historian – assuming there even should be one in the first place? Continue reading
The 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
This 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 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