Tag Archives: Documentary

State Capitol Fire of 1911 Commemoration


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In the early morning hours of March 29, 1911, a fire broke out in the New York State Capitol at Albany. By sunset, the vast collection of the New York State Library, then housed in the Capitol, had been reduced to ashes.

To commemorate the centennial of the fire, coauthors Paul Mercer and Vicki Weiss, both of the New York State Library, have published The New York State Capitol and the Great Fire of 1911 (Arcadia Press, 2011) including rare images and documents from the special collections of the modern library, which arose from the ruins of the 1911 fire.

The public is invited join Executive Deputy Chief Warren Abriel of the Albany Fire Department to mark the 100th Anniversary of this historic event on Tuesday, March 29, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the University Club of Albany. The reception will feature light fare and cash bar, and authors Mercer and Weiss will discuss and sign the book. Royalties from book sales benefit the Friends of the New York State Library.

The event will also feature a preview of a documentary set to air on March 31 on WMHT, The New York Capitol Fire. Robert Altman, President and CEO of WMHT Educational Communications, will introduce a clip of the video, which draws on interviews, archival materials and reenactments. This WMHT documentary was created in collaboration with the New York State Museum, the New York State Archives, the Albany Institute, the New York State Library, the City of Albany and the Commission on the Restoration of the Capitol.

The cost for the reception, book signing and video preview is $20 per person. Reservations are required and may be made by calling the University Club at (518) 463-1151.

A portion of the proceeds from this event benefit the University Club Foundation, formed to recognize and maintain the unique historic and architectural significance of the University Club building and property, its historic neighborhood and the city of Albany, where it has been located since its inception in 1901.

Support for educational programming presented by the University Club of Albany Foundation, Inc. is provided by AT&T.

Photo: Fire-destroyed reading room in State Capitol, Albany, NY, 1911. Courtesy New York State Archives.

Cayuga Museum Film Fest Seeks Entrants


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The 2011 Theodore Case Film Festival seeks entrants. Auburn’s only home-grown film festival honors the work of sound film pioneer Theodore Case and his Case Research Laboratory. Its mission is to further the experimental legacy of the Case Lab by promoting original visual media in Central New York. Festival organizers are actively seeking entries, spreading the word in movie houses, colleges, high schools and middle schools throughout Central New York. The work of area student and adult filmmakers will be screened at the Auburn Public Theater on June 10 and 11. The theater is on Genesee Street in downtown Auburn, the city which is proud to proclaim itself “The Birthplace of Talking Movies.”

Central New York residents are invited to submit their recent work (post January 2009) of thirty minutes or less. Entries should be on DVD. Entry forms may be picked up at the Cayuga Museum, 203 Genesee St., in Auburn, or downloaded from either the Theodore Case Film Festival’s website or the Museum’s website. Work in all genres is welcome and there is no entry fee. Deadline for entries is May 2, 2011.

Two Short Films Celebrate IBM’s Centennial


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The international corporation IBM, based in Armonk, Westchester County, is celebrating it’s 100th Anniversary this year. The company was founded in 1911 as the Computing Tabulating Recording Corporation, following a merger of the Computer Scale Company of America and the International Time Recording Company with the Tabulating Machine Company. The conglomerate adopted the name International Business Machines in 1924, a name the company had used in Canada.

A recently produced video to celebrate their centennial anniversary, 100×100, tells IBM’s history through the eyes of 100 different individuals beginning with a 100-year-old and ending with a newborn baby. The video has been posted to YouTube.

A second IBM film was directed by famed documentation Errol Morris. The 30-minute documentary, They Were There was scored by Philip Glass and chronicles many of the influential people involved at IBM throughout its history.

Illustration: The original IBM Logo. Courtesy Wikipedia.

Broadcast Marks 100th Anniversary of Triangle Factory Fire


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On March 25th, 1911, a deadly fire broke out in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York’s Greenwich Village. The blaze ripped through the congested loft as petrified workers — mostly young immigrant women — desperately tried to make their way downstairs. One door was blocked by fire and the other had been locked by the factory owners to prevent theft.

Some workers managed to cram onto the elevator while others ran down an inadequate fire escape which soon pulled away from the masonry and sent them to their deaths. Hundreds of horrified onlookers arrived just in time to see young men and women jumping from the windows, framed by flames. By the time the fire burned itself out, 146 people were dead. All but 23 of the dead were women and nearly half were teenagers.

The harrowing story of an event that changed labor laws forever, AMERICAN EXPERIENCE Triangle Fire is directed and produced by Jamila Wignot (Walt Whitman, The Rehnquist Revolution) and will premiere on Monday, February 28, 2011 at 9:00 PM (check local listings.)

PBS Documentary Coming to NYS Museum


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The New York State Museum will present a PBS documentary December 11 about the Scotia-based New York Air National Guard Wing’s journey to Greenland with a team of international scientists investigating global warming.

“Arctic Air: A Greenlandic Journey with the 109th” will be shown free-of-charge at 2 p.m. in the Museum’s Huxley Theater. Following the film there will be a question-and-answer session with Amy Manley, the film’s producer and Lt Col Kurt Bedore, a navigator from the 109th Airlift Wing.

The documentary was produced by WCNY, a PBS television station in Syracuse, which traveled alongside American and international teams of scientists as they were transported to Greenland by the 109th Airlift Wing in the summer of 2009.

Flying the United States Air Force’s only ski-equipped C-130 Hercules cargo planes, the Wing provides vital support for polar researchers working in the Arctic and Antarctica. “Arctic Air” captures the Wing members’ commitment as they face many challenges in a frozen land that is both beautiful and dangerous. The skilled pilots and their crews transport supplies, cargo and staff to and from Greenland in temperatures that threaten to freeze their planes’ fuel and hydraulic fluid.

The film shows the camps where American and international teams of scientists seek to unlock mysteries of the past buried deep within the polar ice cap to help provide answers to some of today’s most important questions about climate change and global warning. Lack of pollution, unique topography and untouched flows of glacial ice have made the Greenland ice sheet an ideal laboratory for this research. The 109th Airlift Wing missions have made it possible for scientists from around the world to gather the critical data that is now shaping political, environmental and economic policies on climate change.

WCNY is also providing an online teachers’ guide to the documentary with grade-appropriate activities and links to educational resources for classroom and student research use. The suggested activities focus on the topics introduced in the film including scientific Arctic exploration, Arctic aviation, climate control, global warming, life in Greenland, and unique career opportunities for students to explore.

More information on the documentary and the teachers’ guide is available at www.wcny.org/arcticair.

Information about Museum programs and events can be obtained by calling (518) 474-5877 or visiting the museum website at www.nysm.nysed.gov.

Photo: LC-130H (Skier 96) taking off with jet assisted rockets taken April 2003 on
the Greenland Ice Cap by Todd Valentic, Senior Research Engineer, Center for
GeoSpace Studies.

Travel Channel to Feature Ellis Island Museum


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Travel Channel’s new series, Mysteries at the Museum, will be featuring New York tonight at 9 EST. The show will be highlighting the Ellis Island Immigration Museum.

The episode will feature literacy tests given to all new arrivals at Ellis Island. In theory the test should have prevented thousands of poor, illiterate immigrants from gaining entry into the U.S., but what many immigrants lacked in literacy, they made up for in cunning and guile. How could they possibly have beat the test that was designed to keep them out of America?

Champlain History Project Wins Prestigious Award


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A partnership of state and non-profit entities has won an important award for its project to educate Vermonters about the history and archeology of the Lake Champlain area as part of the Lake Champlain Quadricentennial.

At its recent annual conference, the American Association for State and Local History awarded the Lake Champlain Voyages of Discovery project a 2010 Leadership in History Award of Merit. Continue reading

‘Baghdad ER’ Doc Coming to NYS Museum


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On July 1, the New York State Museum will present the Emmy award-winning HBO documentary “Baghdad ER,” followed by a reunion and discussion between the producer and the first wounded soldier to appear in the film.

Following the 6:30 p.m. film presentation, producer/director Matthew O’Neill will be reunited with Staff Sgt. Craig Macy from Buffalo, a New York National Guard Soldier who was wounded in Iraq in 2005. Macy will speak about his experiences as a wounded veteran, appearing in the documentary and his continuing membership in the National Guard.

The program is being held in conjunction with the new Museum exhibition “Citizen Soldier: New York’s National Guard in the American Century,” open in Exhibition Hall through March 2011.

When it was released in 2006, “Baghdad ER” was the most honored documentary of the year, winning four Emmy Awards for its “unflinching” look at the cost of war. It also won a Peabody Award, the Overseas Press Club Award and the Alfred I. duPont Columbia Award. The groundbreaking documentary chronicles the day-to-day lives of doctors, nurses, medics, soldiers and chaplains in the Army’s premier medical facility in the combat zone. O’Neill and producer Jon Alpert were given unprecedented access to the Army’s 86th Combat Support Hospital during a two-month period in 2005.

The film captures the experiences of the military medical professionals as they work to save lives from their trauma center in the middle of war-ravaged Iraq. The film is not suitable for children. It includes graphic scenes that are at times disturbing and when the film first came out, the Army was concerned about the emotional impact it might have on troops and military families. Instead, the film became almost required viewing for all members of the military medical community and went on to receive critical acclaim from both inside and outside the U.S. military.

Macy was serving with the National Guard’s 1st Battalion 69th Infantry in Iraq in 2005 when he was struck by a sniper as he was handing out candy to Iraqi children. Thanks to his comrades who rushed to his aid, and the expert medical care he received at the trauma center, Macy survived his ordeal, recovered and returned to duty with the National Guard. He volunteered for a deployment to Afghanistan in 2008 with nearly 1700 New York National Guard troops. While still a member of the National Guard, Macy is now a police officer with the City of Buffalo. He recently became a new father and has named his son after one of the soldiers who pulled him to safety in 2005.

This program is the first in a series of special programs that the State Museum is hosting in conjunction with the “Citizen Soldier” exhibition. The exhibition recounts the history of the New York National Guard and those who carried out its mission through wars and battles, natural disasters and national emergencies. The National Guard is based on a tradition dating back to colonial times in a state that has always been guided by the principle that its defense lies in the hands of its citizenry. Citizen soldiers are everyday people who put their lives on hold to defend, aid and protect their communities and their country.

Queen City Review Seeks Black and White Photography


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The Queen City Review, the yearly journal of art and literature published at Burlington College, has sent out a call for photographers working in black and white for submissions for their Fall 2010 issue. According to a recent announcement, the journal “accepts the work of new and established writers and artists in the areas of poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, memoir, photography, and fine art, as well as essays and criticism on all aspects of the aforementioned. We seek to publish high quality work that ranges broadly in topic and genre.”

The guidelines for submissions are on the web at www.burlington.edu. Submissions may be emailed to: queencityreview@burlington.edu.

Farmers Museum To Show ‘Food Inc’


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Otsego 2000 has joined forces with The Farmers’ Museum to screen the critically acclaimed film “Food, Inc.,” with special appearances by representatives from local food and agricultural organizations. The film will be shown in the Fenimore Art Museum Auditorium at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, January 20th.

“Food, Inc.” a Robert Kenner film, features interviews with experts such as Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser, Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto), along with agricultural entrepreneurs like Stonyfield Farm’s Gary Hirshberg and Polyface Farm’s Joel Salatin. “Food, Inc.” reveals surprising — and often shocking truths about what we eat. It exposes the highly mechanized workings of our nation’s food industry that are kept hidden from American consumers. The film stresses the idea that the nation’s food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health.

Speakers for the evening will include Chris Harmon, Executive Director of the Center for Agricultural Development and Entrepreneurship (CADE) in Oneonta; Shulamis Giordani, General Manager of the Foodshed Buying Club in Utica, New York; and Lyn Weir Manager of the Cooperstown Farmers’ Market. Each will talk about creating and supporting a vibrant agricultural and food economy here in Central New York.

For information, please call The Farmers’ Museum at 607-547-1450 or visit our website at www.FarmersMuseum.org.

History Channel to Feature Saranac WWII Veteran


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A History Channel documentary will feature an Adirondack veteran of World War Two: Archie Sweeney of Saranac Lake. The 10-hour series WWII in HD, which will air over over five consecutive nights from Sunday through Thursday, November 15-19 will be narrated by Gary Sinise.

Archie Sweeney was a resident of Saranac Lake Village (where one of his sisters still lives; another lives in Glens Falls), who came to the series late in production according to Larry Miller, who did research and character development for most of the men and women in the series. “I had finished preliminary work for six characters when I got a call from the producer who told me that they wanted a character who was killed early in the war, preferably in North Africa,” Miller told me. “That was going to be a problem for several reasons. Men who died early in the war had very little time to write letters or diaries so there would probably be very little material to work with. There would be no oral histories recorded and obviously no book written.”

What Miller hoped to find was a man who had surviving family members and who had saved information relating to his experiences. “Almost immediately, my thoughts turned to the Adirondacks,” Miller says. “My chances to find surviving relatives were better if I could find someone from a small town rather than, for example, Manhattan. These families were, at the time, less mobile than those from larger cities. A side benefit would be that I could work and be in the Adirondacks simultaneously.”

Miller began his search by reading the casualty lists published in the New York Times where he found three men from the Adirondack region who had been killed in action in North Africa. A search of their obituaries told Miller that two of the men were survived by only their parents – the third was Archie Sweeney, whose several siblings survived the war. “After several months of researching newspapers, public records, service records and interviewing his surviving relatives, I had gathered enough information about the young man to write a narrative of his short life and brave death,” Miller said.

Larry Miller sent the short biography he wrote about Archie Sweeney to the Almanack. Here it is in its entirety:

Corporal Archie Sweeney was twenty one years old when he graduated from Saranac Lake High School in Saranac Lake, New York. He was not their best student. Once he teasingly told his two little sisters that when you did well in high school they used the word “flunked”, so when he came home one day and told his mother that he had flunked math, the girls greeted him with hugs and congratulated him.

“Polite” was the term most often attached to his name. It helps to be polite when you share your living space with eight brothers and sisters. And it becomes a survival skill when you are separated from your family, Archie to one relative and his two younger sisters to another, because your mother has died and your father is too ill to care for you. (His mother died from cancer and his father has a broken neck that he sustained while digging trenches along the roadside. After his accident, he spent many months in a body case.)

At the time of her death, Archie was working two jobs and attending high school. He loved his days spent on his father’s farm in Lawrenceville, a tiny village in upstate New York almost as much as the times he and his brothers spent at their dad’s hunting camp Floodwood, a speck on the map located in the Adirondack Mountains, where they hunted and fished during the fall and winter when the farming was idle. It was during those frigid winters that his sisters remember Archie bundling them up, seating them in a sleigh, hitching the horse up and driving them to church.

When the war broke out, Archie was the first young man whose number was called in the draft lottery held in nearby Lake Placid. But Archie has enlisted the previous day. On New Years Day, 1941, he told his older brother that this was a good way to start the year. It was time to move on; to see what life had in store for him. Two days later he walked to Lake Placid a few miles away, to report for his physical.

He took a train, the first time he had ever been on one, to Fort Bragg, N.C. where his politeness was put to the test training with the 39th Infantry, 9th Division.

By the middle of March, he had been assigned to Company H and proudly sent his company photograph home. There he stood, right next to the company flag, all 5’ 11”, 145 pounds of him, standing ram-rod straight and looking quite serious.

Early that summer, Archie returned home and stayed at the farm. One of his sisters took a snapshot of him standing proudly in front of their barn. That evening, as she was preparing for bed, she saw Archie, standing as comfortably as if he had been sitting, watching as the sun set. “What are you looking at?” she asked. “I’m just looking. I don’t know if I’ll ever see this again.”

On 25 September 1942 the 39th, the Fighting Falcons, boarded 5 ships and sailed out of New York harbor. On the 6th of October 1942 and about 4,000 miles later, the convoy dropped anchor in Belfast Harbor. The 39th moved to Scotland and awaited the departure of the 47th and 60th Infantry Regiments from the US and their first D-Day.

The 9th Infantry Division saw its first combat in the North African invasion when its elements landed at Algeria in Ain-Taya 15 miles east of the city of Algeria on November 8, 1942. Moving swiftly the 39th defeated the Vichy-French troops and had the city surrounded.

The next three months were spent guarding communications lines along their front.

Company B picked up a new rifle platoon leader during this period, Lieutenant Charles Scheffel.

The war was not going well. The Germans were retreating but we couldn’t face Rommel’s tanks with our big guns. The units that tried that at Kasserine Pass suffered a devastating defeat.

The U.S. plan involved the U.S. 1st and 9th Infantry Divisions, to occupy the hills on opposite sides of the El Guettar Pass which would enable the armored troops to pass through the valley without being fired on from its flanks. This force attacked Hill 369 on the afternoon of 30 March but ran into mines and anti-tank fire, losing 5 tanks. The tanks were removed, and the 1st and 9th attacked again the next day at 06:00, moving up and taking several hundred prisoners. However an Italian counterattack drove them back from their newly gained positions, and by 12:45 they were back where they started with the loss of 9 tanks and 2 tank destroyers. A further attempt the next day on 1 April also failed, after barely getting started.

Captain Scheffel recalled that, “On March 27, 1943, my first wedding anniversary, I took out Ruth’s picture and wished I was back in Enid. I kept thinking what a shitty place to spend an anniversary. At least we weren’t fired on during the first night, and for that, I was grateful.”

On April 1, Archie was writing a letter home. “It’s very quite here this evening. I think the war may be coming to an end.” [see p 7 of my notes-when the skirmish occurred a few days later.]

His older brother, Harold, received a telegram on May 8th, 1943 informing him that Archie was “Missing in Action”. Two days later an Army chaplain arrived at his door to tell them that Archie had been killed the same evening he wrote his letter.

He was twenty five years old; the first Saranac Lake Village soldier to die in action.

Photo: Saranac Lake’s Archie Sweeney during World War Two. Photo provided.

Champlain Quad Project Featured In Federal Publication


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A project that helped celebrate the 400th anniversary of the navigation of Lake Champlain by Samuel de Champlain is being held up as an example of how partnerships between public broadcasters, libraries, and other entities can benefit communities.

The Vermont Division for Historic Preservation joins the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) in announcing the release of a new publication, Partnership for a Nation of Learners: Joining Forces, Creating Value, which offers guidance on creating effective community collaborations. Continue reading

New Netherland Project Featured in New Documentary


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The New York State Library’s New Netherland Project is featured in the documentary “Uncovering America’s Forgotten Colony: The New Netherland Project.” The documentary focuses on the work of Dr. Charles Gehring and his colleagues and highlights more than 30 years of uncovering America’s forgotten Dutch colonial history through the transcription and translation of the official archives of New Netherland. The documentary “Uncovering America’s Forgotten Colony: The New Netherland Project” was produced by Mogul One Productions in partnership with the New Netherland Institute. DVDs are available for $19.95, at http://ForPeopleWhoThink.com. Fifty percent of the proceeds will go to support future work of the New Netherland Project.

One of the most unique history projects in America, the New Netherland Project provided the documentation and inspiration for Russell Shorto’s recent best seller, The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony that Shaped America.

A program of the New York State Library, the New Netherland Project has been working since 1974 to translate and publish the official 17th-century Dutch colonial documents of one of America’s earliest settled regions. Originally created under the sponsorship of the New York State Library and the Holland Society of New York, the New Netherland Project has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the New York State Office of Cultural Education. Translated documents and other work by the New Netherland Project can be accessed at www.nnp.org.

Also based on the work of the New Netherland Project, the exhibit Light on New Netherland is the first to introduce adults and children to the scope of the 17th century colony of New Netherland. Previously on view at the State Museum in Albany, the exhibit will tour the regions once encompassed by New Netherland, appearing at venues to include the GaGa Arts Center in West Haverstraw, New York; the Museum of Connecticut History at the Connecticut State Library in Hartford; the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities in Cold Spring Harbor, New York; Federal Hall in Manhattan; and the FDR Library and Museum in Hyde Park, New York.

The book Explorers, Fortunes and Love Letters (Mount Ida Press) further explores the history of America’s earliest colony with a collection of twelve essays. Designed to appeal to a general audience and scholars alike, the book features an opening chapter by Russell Shorto, author of The Island at the Center of the World: the Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan & the Forgotten Colony that Shaped America. The book was published by the New Netherland Institute and Mount Ida Press in April 2009.

SUNY Albany Offers New History and Media MA Degree


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The University at Albany’s Department of History has introduced a new 36-credit History and Media concentration to its Masters program, allowing students to learn and apply specialized media skills — digital history and hypermedia authoring, photography and photoanalysis, documentary filmmaking, oral/video history, and aural history and audio documentary production — to the study of the past. The History and Media concentration builds on the Department’s strengths in academic and public history and its reputation as an innovator in the realm of digital and multimedia history.

Among the History and Media courses to be offered beginning in the fall of 2009 are: Introduction to Historical Documentary Media; Narrative in Historical Media; Readings and Practicum in Aural History and Audio Documentary Production; Readings and Practicum in Digital History and Hypermedia; Readings in the History and Theory of Documentary Filmmaking; Readings in Visual Media and Culture; Introduction to Oral and Video History; Research Seminar and Practicum in History and Media.

Instructors in the History and Media concentration will vary but will include a core faculty including: Gerald Zahavi, Professor; Amy Murrell Taylor, Associate Professor; Ray Sapirstein, Assistant Professor; Sheila Curran Bernard, Assistant Professor.

For more information, contact Gerald Zahavi, zahavi@albany.edu; 518-442-5427.

The Holidays: The Bible’s Buried Secrets


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As a holiday historical treat (of sorts) I’d like to point readers to two recent posts over at Varnam, which describes itself as “a blog about history, archaeology and current affairs with focus on India.” The author recently reviewed the archeological / historical evidence for the bible following the two-hour NOVA documentary, The Bible’s Buried Secrets, which aired on PBS on Nov 18th.

It’s an interesting read for the holiday season: Part One, Part Two.