Category Archives: Public History

History Community Coordination: An Update


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home_revolutionReaders of The New York History Blog may recall that in a previous post I asked if anyone had heard about what had been discussed in Cooperstown at the NYSHA conference in a private meeting involving the Association of Public Historians of New York State (APHNYS), the New York State historical Association (NYSHA), and the New York State Historian among others.

Some of those discussions have now been reported in the APHNYS newsletter. The following excerpts are from the newsletter. Continue reading

Grants Available for Canal-Related History Projects


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Main Street and Canal StreetThe Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor is accepting applications through Friday, October 25, 2013 for 2013-2014 Canalway Grants. Grants ranging from $2,000 to $7,000 will be awarded for projects that serve to advance the goals of the Erie Canalway Preservation and Management Plan.

Proposals related to historic preservation, conservation, recreation, interpretation, tourism, and community development will be considered. Awards must be matched dollar for dollar. Continue reading

Boating Museum Auctioning Boats from Collection


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Ro-Mo-SailAfter collecting wooden boats built in the Finger Lakes for more than a decade, the Finger Lakes Boating Museum has decided to sell some boats from its collection of more than 100 vessels. The Auction will take place Saturday, September 21, starting at 10 am at the Museum storage site, 8231 Pleasant Valley Road, Hammondsport.

Ed Wightman, Museum President and Chair of its Collections Committee, said that the boats in the auction are “project boats,” meaning they are not in excellent restored condition. “We are offering them because they are either duplicates or boats that we have not been able to identify their origin,” explained Wightman. Continue reading

New Board Members at Rensselaer County Historical Society


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image001(3)The Rensselaer County Historical Society (RCHS) announces the appointment of Douglas Bucher, Phyllis Conroy, Christina Kelly and Robert Matthews to the Board of Trustees. They were elected to their terms at the 86th Annual Meeting held on September 9, 2013.

The Rensselaer County Historical Society and Museum, located at 57 Second Street in Troy, is a not-for-profit educational organization established in 1927 to connect local history and heritage with contemporary life. Continue reading

The Path Through History Project A Year Later: Failure?


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Path Through historyAugust 28, 2013 not only was the 50th anniversary of the “I Have a Dream” March on Washington, it also was the one year anniversary of the kickoff of the Path Through History project. That event was attended by hundreds of people from throughout the state and heralded a bold vision of the role of the history of the state in New York’s future.

I have the paperweight handed out to commemorate the event, and two slick, glossy, color booklets distributed for the event.  I even have an unused napkin from the Executive Mansion with its image as a souvenir of the event. What I don’t have is any hope for the project of great potential and little achievement. Continue reading

The American Revolution: Perpetual Rebirth


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home_revolutionI would like to address some questions raised about my critique of the American Revolution Reborn conference.

I’d like to begin with Tara Lyons, of the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society. I have two conference handouts from her entitled “Museum Introduction for Refugee Students.” Under the objectives for the program is listed: Explain how this museum might help them learn about their new home.  She then turns to the task of how to achieve this objective:

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Reaction: Byways of the History Community Already Exist


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New York State Byways MapOn August 8, regular contributor to the New York History Blog Peter Feinman wrote a post

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entitled “Old Roads: Byways of the History Community” in which he made a proposal to create “Paths” following the historic and scenic roadways of New York.

This article made two things abundantly clear: there is a need for pathways that create a driving experience and many people in the history community are unaware that these programs already exist! Continue reading

Peter Feinman: Scholars in the Public Mind


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home_revolutionThanks are due to Mike Zuckerman for his response to my series on the American Revolution Reborn conference which he organized. I appreciate his having read an unsolicited essay from a stranger whom he just met, for our extended email exchange, and for his contributing a post to New York History on this topic.

If I may, I would like to respond to his comments by separating them into two types: those that addressed the conference itself and those that refer to the more general question of America’s identity. Continue reading

Digital Storytelling: Museums for a New Generation


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virtual-then-nowWhen the distinguished Commission on Museums for a New Century, organized by the American Association for Museums (AAM), met in 1982 with the purpose of studying and clarifying the role of museums in American society, it had already recognized technology as a major force of change in the museum community. The AAM predicted that “high technology brings a ‘high-touch’ reaction – an increasing need for individual choice and human interaction-” and warned that “museums could

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affect and be affected by the electronic age… [particularly] in the way they choose to use communication technology in their exhibition halls and educational activities.” Continue reading

Books: The Encyclopedia of Local History


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Encyclopedia of Local History 2nd EditionThe Encyclopedia of Local History (AltaMira Press, 2012) addresses nearly every aspect of local history, including everyday issues, theoretical approaches, and trends in the field. This encyclopedia provides both the casual browser and the dedicated historian with adept commentary by bringing the voices of over one hundred experts together in one place. Authoritative, accessible, and comprehensive, Carol Kammen & Amy H. Wilson’s volume is a deep resource for historical organizations of any size. Continue reading

Two Row Wampum: The Triumph of Truthiness


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Wampum-BeltsThe historic journey of Two Row Wampum is in the news. The journey by water from Albany to the United Nations has been recorded and chronicled each step of the way.

The culminating activity at the conclusion of the journey is to honor the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. The paddlers consist of roughly equal numbers of Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, paddling side-by-side in two lines to honor and bring to life the imagery of the Two Row Wampum.
Continue reading

Bruce Dearstyne: Reaffirming the Power of Place


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02floor-googleicon-blog480Many people in New York’s history community work every day to affirm, interpret, and present the stories of the distinctiveness of their communities and their histories. Local history is very powerful. “Local history allows many interpretations,” write Carol Kammen and Amy H. Wilson in the introduction to the second edition of The Encyclopedia of Local History (2013). “It is flexible and it is not just national history writ small as some have suggested. Local history is the study of past events, or of people or groups, in a given geographic area – a study based on a wide variety of documentary evidence and placed in a comparative context that should be both regional and national.”

There is considerable recent evidence of the continuing power of place. Continue reading

Amtrak as Contributor to Cultural Heritage Tourism


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event_203538812I confess to a bias in support of trains since my father was an electrical engineer for General Electric. He rode the rails with GE’s state-of-the-art engine (which he helped design) and appeared in the final scene of the movie Union Pacific at a time when movies played in Bijous in communities across the country. Those days are gone, but what can Amtrak contribute to the history community in New York?

Amtrak is underutilized contributor to cultural heritage tourism. I have ridden the Amtrak rails from Albany to Niagara Falls, from New York City to Plattsburgh and I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that Amtrak train service in New York is not designed to promote tourism in New York. Continue reading

Old Roads: Byways of the History Community


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US9_Freehold_NJRoute 66 is perhaps the most culturally iconic road in American history. Not to take anything away from other byways, but how many have had TV shows and become tourist destinations?

New York has its share of numbered roads with historic connections. In Westchester County where I live there is Route 1 (the Boston Post Road into New England); Route 9 (the Albany Post Road from NYC to Montreal), and Route 22  (the White Plains Post Road to the Canadian Border). These roads follow the lay of the land and have been used for centuries. We should be promoting them as access points to our history community.
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Erie Canalway Trail Map Updated For Mobile Devices


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Erie Canalway Interactive MapParks & Trails New York’s (PTNY) interactive map of the Erie Canalway Trail — the cross-state route between Buffalo and Albany along the Erie Canal — has been updated and optimized for mobile devices.

With GPS-enabled capability, users can find exactly where they are relative to the Trail and easily locate nearby attractions and services, including museums, historic sites, parks, lodging, bike shops, restaurants, convenience stores, ATMs, pharmacies, and hardware stores. Parking areas and handicapped accessible trailheads are also included. Continue reading

American Revolution Reborn:
Michael Zuckerman on American Exceptionalism


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home_revolutionI am grateful for Peter Feinman’s kind words about the conference I helped to organize, The American Revolution Reborn.  I am even more grateful for his unkind words.

Peter’s complaints and criticisms hit home.  He is right that elite academic historians embarrass themselves when confronted with questions like the one that one entire conference panel dodged: was the American Revolution a good thing or a bad thing?  He is right that many academic historians, and not just those at elite institutions, are reluctant to engage the conundrums that come of asking what part great men play in momentous developments and whether the leadership of one such man, George Washington, was indispensable to the winning of American independence?  And he is right, profoundly right, that ivory-tower educators never quite get around to the dilemma that ought to haunt all educators: how do we teach what we know to the young? Continue reading

Busing New York:
Field Trips and Local Paths Through History


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field-trip_students_busOn May 30, 2013, I wrote about a high school teacher who took a class to Greece and wondered how that teacher would go about creating a visit to New York State. He used a travel agent because multiple paths through Greek history exist and he could pick the one he wanted. One might think that something similar could be done in New York but consider the following examples.

The Historical Society of Rockland County has numerous bus trips throughout the year. They sell out and are well received. They also are mainly in Rockland County which the Society, of course knows well. After that post about Greece, I received a private email which I am authorized to share. The Society would like to expand its bus programs beyond the county but encountered problems. Continue reading

Erie Canalway Executive Director Stepping Down


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7After eight years with the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, Executive Director Beth Sciumeca has announced that she will be transitioning out of her position as executive director over the next six months to pursue other professional opportunities.

Sciumeca has worked for the Erie Canalway since 2005. She led the organization during the early stages of implementing its Preservation and Management Plan. An announcement that appeared in the Canalway’s newsletter said “She has been instrumental in raising the stature of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor both nationally and statewide.” Continue reading

Dear Andrew Cuomo: Fund History Infrastructure


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Andrew Cuomo (Times Union Photo)Last Monday, Governor Andrew Cuomo inaugurated the Adirondack Challenge as an upstate tourist initiative. The Indian River rafting challenge was issued to New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who, according to news reports, is more familiar with yachts than inflatable rafts. The State defeated the City by 18 seconds in the three mile race. A wet and good time was had by all.

Governor Cuomo’s love for upstate (in particular the Adirondacks, not, say Syracuse), is well known. According to the New York Times a year before the Path through History roll-out, the Governor “has conspicuously avoided leaving the state” save for driving on the Palisades Interstate Parkway when headed north from the city. As Cuomo put it: “You can have the best vacation of your life right here in the state of New York. I see no reason to go anywhere else. It’s my state and I’m sticking to it.” Continue reading