Category Archives: Public History

Civil War Anniversary Effort A Mockery Of Sacrifice


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Civil War 150th New York StateA recent post here at the New York History Blog by regular contributor Bruce Dearstyne caught my attention.  Dr. Dearstyne, a tireless advocate of this state’s history, was considering New York’s celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War.

“New York has not had an official state office or commission to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the war and the state’s role in it,” Dr. Dearstyne noted. “Of course, there have been many notable ceremonies, exhibits, and public events in our state during the past four years. The New York State Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee provided leadership and a focal point for publicizing events. The New York State Military Museum did outstanding work.”

I was taken aback a bit by this notion that the New York State Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee provided leadership, or publicized events – I couldn’t recall ever hearing of them. Continue reading

Entering the Post Civil War Sesquicentennial Era


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lithograph of the Battle of Gettysburg from the Library of CongressA recent article “Made in New York: The Empire State at War,” in the Albany Times Union by Civil War historian Bill Howard reminded readers of New York’s central importance in the Civil War.

Howard noted, among other things, that New York governor Edwin Morgan began mobilizing troops for the war even before the surrender of Fort Sumter, enlisted about 450,000 soldiers during the war (more than half of the state’s population under 30), was a major supplier of arms and other war materials. Howard analyzes several other New York contributions and concludes that “the war could not have been won without New York’s contributions.” Continue reading

Funding A History Passport Program


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Adirondack Coast History PassportPassports are an underutilized resource for promoting tourism and community identity. While I have been a strong advocate for the creation and use of passports at the local, county, and regional basis for schools and tourism, I only now have realized the potential funding opportunity with the latest round of funding through the Regional Economic Development Councils (REDC).

This epiphany began at the annual conference of the Association of Public Historians in New York State in Corning in April. On the display table there was a pile of Adirondack Coast Cultural Alliance passports. Continue reading

A Call For Municipal Historian Reform In NYS


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NYS MapThis question of what municipal historians should be doing came up at the recent annual conference of the Association of Public Historians of New York (APNYS). The setting was a session at the conference for first-time municipal historians and was chaired by Christine Ridarsky, the City of Rochester Historian who works at the Central Library in Rochester and serves on the APHNYS board.

The stories told during the session did not reflect well on the state of the municipal historian position in New York State. Some had stumbled into the job based on very local circumstances. They didn’t know what the job entailed, nor did the municipal leaders who appointed them. Continue reading

Peter Feinman: The State of the Municipal Historian


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NYS MapNew York prides itself as being the only state in the country to require each municipality to have an historian. Unfortunately, besides taking pride in this action, the State does little or nothing to support those historians.

In previous posts, I have reported the following based on an analysis of a download of the municipal listings from the Association of Public Historians of New York State (APHNYS): Continue reading

Legends And Lore Historic Marker Grant Program


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Legends and Lore Grant Program - croppedThe William G. Pomeroy Foundation has partnered with the New York Folklore Society to launch a new grant program to promote cultural tourism and commemorate urban legends and folklore as part of the New York’s history.

Folklore is an expression of our common past, yet it draws attention to what is unique about communities. Passed from person to person over time, there is often historical truth at the heart of every legend. Continue reading

Fenton History Center’s Pizza and Genealogy Project


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fresco(1)Those of us in the local history museum business sometimes struggle to connect with the large segment of the general population that doesn’t see the relevance of history. They are busy with their everyday lives; schedules of work, family and leisure time. Trying to get their attention and then bring them to a history based event can be challenging.

A few years ago at a Fenton History Center Board of Trustee meeting (Fenton History Center is in Jamestown, Chautauqua County, NY) we were brainstorming about how to collect and disseminate more local Italian genealogy and the stories that go with the families involved. One of the Fenton History Center Trustees suggested we hold a pizza judging event. We tabled the idea until last year when we started the “Slice of History Pizza Challenge”. Continue reading

Rethinking Outreach by Moving Outside the Museum


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Iszards Store Window DisplayThe Chemung County Historical Society has been working with new partners and new programs as part of our effort to be a greater presence in our community. As director, I feel that it is imperative that the museum be a part of everyday community life, analogous to our local library. In order to make a greater impact on our community, we need to find better ways to entice community members to visit our museum and for us to meet our fellow citizens where they are.

Over the past eighteen months, the CCHS has had the opportunity to place new exhibits throughout our community, develop new programming with an unexpected partner and strengthen ties to a traditional partner. Continue reading