Category Archives: Public History

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

Haunted History Trail And ‘Path Through History’ Failures


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Haunted History TrailTwo of the buzzwords for the Path through History project have been “cooperation” and “collaboration.” Achieving them has been difficult, particularly given the number of small historic sites that simply do not have the staff to spare for such an effort. Another problem has been the lack of support for history tourism by the tourist departments. I’ve been told they might promote something if you bring it to them, but will not help create it.

As it turns out, there is a new area where county tourist departments are cooperating and collaborating in support of a trail with statewide implications: the supernatural. As previously reported in The New York History Blog, haunted mansions are big business, especially at Halloween. So the next time you are re-evaluating your organization’s strategic vision, keep in mind the opportunities of positioning yourself to appear on New York State’s “Haunted History Trail.”  This is not another April Fools prank; there are lessons to be learned from this endeavor. The website of the “Haunted History Trail” includes the following “About the Trail”: Continue reading

Fort Ticonderoga Awarded for Interpretive Programs


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Stuart on horse 2Fort Ticonderoga recently received an Innovation in Interpretation Award from the Museum Association of New York (MANY) which recognized Fort Ticonderoga as a leader in historic interpretation. The award was presented at MANY’s annual meeting in Albany, NY at the end of March.

“Fort Ticonderoga Interpretative Department, developed in 2011, has in remarkably short time become a national leader in historical interpretation, setting and implementing unparalleled interpretive standards,” said Beth Hill, Fort Ticonderoga President and CEO. “The program outcomes under the leadership of Director of Interpretation Stuart Lilie have seen nothing less than amazing results in attendance, school field trip participation, and increased Scout attendance. Through the creation and implementation of a unique interpretive approach, Fort Ticonderoga has defied the professional trends and has embarked on a major transformation.” Continue reading

Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey To Present Jay Lecture


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Rose HarveyThe John Jay Lecture, jointly sponsored by Pace Law School and the Jay Heritage Center, will be held on April 29th at the Jay Estate in Rye, NY, the National Historic Landmark property where Jay grew up as a child and which he owned and managed from 1813 to 1822 before passing it on to his eldest son Peter.

The speaker this year is Hon. Rose Harvey, Commissioner of New York State’s Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation (OPRHP) of the State of New York. Harvey will speak on the topic “Stewardship of New York’s Cultural & Natural History”. Continue reading

Peter Feinman: An Unanswered Email to Ken Adams of ILoveNY And Path through History


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PathThroughHistoryAs reported in my previous post on lobbying in Albany, I had the opportunity to briefly chat with Ken Adams, President and CEO Empire State Development and Commissioner of New York State Department of Economic Development. This includes ILoveNY and the Path through history.

That chat led to an email, written March 5th, which is posted below. He has not responded. Continue reading

Should the History Community Lobby?


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nycapitolShould the New York State history community lobby in Albany and if so, for what? These questions occurred to me as I recently participated in two days of lobbying. The events were arranged by Parks & Trails New York and the Open Space Institute’s Alliance for New York Parks on Park Advocacy Day, and by the Tourism Industry Coalition for Tourism Action Day.  The former is works essentially on behalf of NYS Office Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation (NYSOPRHP) while the latter consists of 23 organizations including 9 counties, 2 cities, New York and Syracuse, one region, the Finger Lakes, and hospitality organizations. Continue reading

Bill Hosley: A Call To Localize Humanities Funding


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Peale The Artist in His MuseumI value the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). I have been a grant review panelist and recipient of grants. Indeed Acting NEH Director Andrea Anderson was the program officer I worked with 30 years ago on “The Great River: Art & Society of the CT Valley” (1985). Without NEH, that project would have been impossible.

I have always had a passion for local history and small museums and especially house museums. I started out in one in Vermont in the 1970s. I am not one who thinks there are “too many house museums.” I think there is too little equity in the way public funds and private foundations involved in the arts and humanities are distributed. I am concerned that too little of that support reaches down to that half of the museum industry comprised of organizations that are small. Continue reading

Slavery and the Underground Railroad Conference Set


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Underground Railroad ConferenceThe Underground Railroad History Project of the Capital Region will present the 13th Public History Conference on the Underground Railroad Movement on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, April 11-13, 2014 at Russell Sage College and the Rensselaer County Historical Society in Troy, NY.

For thirteen years, the Underground Railroad History Project of the Capital Region has been contributing to awareness and historical understanding of abolitionists and freedom seekers and their activity, emphasizing the participation of African American abolitionists and relating the movement to our experiences today. Continue reading

Finger Lakes Museum Appoints Executive Director


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Finger Lakes MuseumThe Finger Lakes Museum’s Board of Trustees made a new appointment at its March 18th board meeting. Philip Lentini, of Penfield, who had been serving as the Museum’s Vice President for Advancement since late 2013, was elected to a seat on the board and appointed to the position of Executive Director.

He will be in charge of managing the Museum’s day to day business operations and will continue to direct its fundraising programs. He previously served nine years as a Vice President of the Rochester Museum and Science Center. Continue reading

Peter Feinman: The Queens State of History


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270px-Queens_Montage_2012_1Where is the U.S. (Tennis) Open played? The tournament is located in the borough of Queens but people are more likely to think Flushing. The Brooklyn Dodgers and the Bronx Bombers are named or nicknamed for their borough, the Mets and the Jets (when they were in New York) are not. Letters to New York have borough names in the mailing address except for Queens. They are addressed to Forest Hills where the U.S. Open used to be played or to Astoria, Bayside, Long Island City and so on.

At a recent conference on Quintessential Queens held at Queens College, former Queens resident Nicole Steinberg, in a talk entitled “Many a Neighborhood – Astoria to the Rockways”, identified 74 different neighborhoods in the borough. While all of them might not have their own postal address, the large number highlights the problems: people in the borough may identify with their neighborhood the same way someone outside New York City identifies with a village, town or city and not with their county. In other words, Queens has an identity problem. Continue reading

Peter Feinman: The Bronx State of History


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502px-Bronx1867What is the Bronx state of history? Despite its long history, it is only 100 years ago when it was officially recognized as a county in New York State. Bronx County Historical Society educator Angel Hernandez will speak on the early history of The Bronx through its achieving county status on March 29 at The Bronx Archives Building.

On April 9, The Bronx County Historical Society will present an exhibition at the Museum of Bronx History titled “Bronx County – 100 Years.” One notes that this recognition of county status occurred subsequent to the creation of the expanded New York City. Continue reading

Peter Feinman: Resurrecting the NY Freedom Trail


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freedur1The wheel is about to be reinvented. In response to an earlier post on the State Tourism Advisory Council, Rosemary Vietor wrote the following comment:

Peter – Perhaps you saw the article in yesterday’s WSJ NY section on the underground railroad (not precise title) tourism sites proposed for Manhattan. It is an effort to link those sites (most of which no longer exist) into a walking tour. There has been for a number of years a similar effort in Flushing, the Flushing Freedom Mile. It links sites such as the Quaker Meeting House, Bowne House and others. There are markers so one can do this tour. Here is a great example of what might be done to increase history tourism – link both sites and others around the city. Why is this not done? It’s so obvious. As for Mystic Seaport, I can tell you from involvement there that CT has long recognized the importance of history and tourism and has devoted substantial funds to those efforts. New York seems indifferent at best. NY Culture. Continue reading

NYS Parks, Historic Sites Visitation Tops 60 Million


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OPRHP-1The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) today announced that more than 60.1 million people visited New York state parks and historic sites in 2013, and campgrounds had the busiest year on record.

Visitation topped 60 million for the second year in a row despite the fact that some of state’s most popular parks were temporarily closed for repairs due to Superstorm Sandy. Continue reading

2014 Public Historians Conference in Saratoga Springs


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AphlogoThe 2014 Association of Public Historians in New York State annual conference will be held from March 16-19, 2014 at the Gideon Putnam Hotel in Saratoga Springs.

A tentative conference schedule and registration information has been posted online here.

The purpose of the Association is to promote and encourage a greater understanding of the history of New York State and its local jurisdictions; to promote and encourage the work of the officially appointed local government historians in New York State and its legal jurisdictions; to support and encourage the Office of the State Historian; to foster a spirit of cooperation and collegiality among all public historians in New York State.