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.
A few years ago, NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo launched a statewide “Revitalization Initiative” to help revitalize and expand the state’s economy. Job creation is the primary goal. Major state funding has been allocated and directed to a variety of projects. Last spring, the Governor changed the program to focus on the “Upstate Revitalization Initiative.” The overall goal is “systematically revitalizing the economy of Upstate New York,” in the words of the official guidelines. Continue reading
This week “The Historians” podcast features Peter Feinman, a frequent contributor to the New York History Blog. Feinman is founder and president of the Institute of History, Archaeology, and Education, which provides enrichment programs for schools, professional development program for teachers and public programs to historic sites in the state. He takes a critical look at the New York State Path through History program. You can listen online here. Continue reading
In early October, the New York Cultural Heritage Tourism Network under the leadership of Spike Herzig, a member of the Tourism Advisory Council, hosted a meeting in Seneca Falls for the Women’s Suffrage Centennial.
There were about 85 attendees, mainly from the central New York region. The purpose was to meet, learn, and plan for the upcoming centennials of women gaining the right to vote in New York State (2017) and the United States (2020). The event’s agenda was abandoned as members of the history community began to air their frustrations over Empire State Development’s role in heritage tourism. Continue reading
The Illinois State Museum and four satellite facilities closed on October 1 as the result of budget cuts imposed by Governor Bruce Rauner. New Yorkers may be able to learn from what is happening there.
The Governor warned that the budget being proposed by the state legislature in June was out of balance and exceeded state revenues. The legislature passed it despite his warning that he would have to cut programs. In July, he made good on his promise, announcing the Museum’s closure among other cost-cutting measures. Continue reading
There’s a crisis in historical societies and historic house museums across the nation. Membership dues and visitation are in decline. The costs of maintaining buildings and collections is exhausting resources.
Volunteers are under pressure to digitize archives and make resources more widely available to the public without having the expertise or budgetary supports that would be necessary to do so. Exhibits and programming are stagnant while trustees work tirelessly to triage the symptoms. And the public is largely unaware of the treasures that these institutions have to offer. 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
The Historic Districts Council, an advocate for New York City’s historic neighborhoods representing a constituency of over 500 local community organizations, has named Daniel J. Allen, Board President.
“Mr. Allen has been a valued member of the HDC board for several years. His knowledge and experience as both a professional and community preservationist make him an ideal candidate and we are very happy to welcome him into this new position,” Simeon Bankoff, HDC’s Executive Director said in a statement to the press. Continue reading
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
Just before the July 4th weekend, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a press release on the state of tourism. The release covered tourism in its totality and did not address specific sectors like adventure tourism, winery tourism, historic tourism, and LGBT tourism, the four pillars of I Love NY promotions. It also did not differentiate between business, vacation, or shopping travelers. (Macy’s chief executive Terry Lundgren in 2013 called Macy’s “ a tourist place” with roughly 6,000,000 tourists a year).
That being said, the number of travelers to the Empire State from elsewhere is impressive and the economic impact is substantial. Continue reading
Senator Chuck Schumer, Congressman Chris Gibson, and Governor Andrew Cuomo have all been in the news recently on the subject of history tourism. It is instructive to compare and contrast their involvement in the subject.
On July 1, Senator Schumer visited the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill, Greene County. The site is a privately operated. The cause of the visit was the unexpected discovery what appears to be original paintings from around 1836 by Thomas Cole which had been hidden under layers of paint. Schumer was contacted about federal funding to preserve the art. He not only supports the request, but also toured the site with executive director Betsy Jacks. Continue reading
The year 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in New York State, a milestone for the state and a transformative moment in American democracy.
The New York Council for the Humanities has launched an effort to get the New York State Legislature to appropriately mark New York State Women’s Suffrage Centennial. “We feel that the New York State legislature has the opportunity and fiscal obligation to support the Commemoration,” an e-mail from the Council said. Continue reading
New York State Historian Robert Weible, who also serves as Chief Curator of the New York State Museum and leads the State Museum’s History Office, has announced that he will retire from state employment. His last day will be Wednesday, July 15, 2015.
According to Antonia Valentine, spokesperson for the New York State Education Department: “The Museum will conduct a national search for candidates for Chief Curator of the Museum and New York State Historian over the next several months. In the interim, the Museum’s History Office will report to the State Museum Director.” Continue reading
A 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
June 6th and June 20th weekends offer two contrasting perceptions of how to celebrate the history of New York State. These two weekends highlight fundamental problems with New York State’s approach to state heritage and makes clear that the state of Connecticut demonstrates greater leadership and a more profound understanding of its history community.
A 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
Passports 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
This 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
On Memorial Day the New York History Blog encourages you to take a moment to support Friends of the Fishkill Supply Depot who are working to protect 10.4 acres that include an abandoned American Revolutionary War Soldiers’ Cemetery from commercial development.
In late 2007, an archaeological team rediscovered the cemetery on privately-owned land just south of the Van Wyck Homestead along U.S. Route 9 in Fishkill. Fishkill served as the Patriots’ principal supply depot throughout the American Revolution, providing troops with supplies, weapons, ammunitions, transport, and food from 1776-1783. The majority of the original 70-acre site has already been lost to commercial and transportation development. The Van Wyck Homestead served as the headquarters for what was George Washington’s principal supply depot during the Revolutionary War and is the site’s only remaining structure. Continue reading
A film screening of “Modern Ruin: A World’s Fair Pavilion,” Matthew Silva’s documentary about an abandoned structure designed by modernist icon Philip Johnson for the 1964 World’s Fair.The film tells the story of the Pavilion from the glory days of the fair, through the years of neglect, up to present day advocacy.
The filmmakers hope this project will be the first step in engaging and informing people about the building in new and exciting ways. This whimsical, futuristic, and soaring structure, constructed for the 1964 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens, has been left abandoned for the greater part of 50 years. Continue reading