Tag Archives: Municipal Historians

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

Interview: City Of New York’s Municipal Archives

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NYC Department of Records and ArchivesKen Cobb joined me on “The Forget-Me-Not Hour” podcast this week, talking about one of the richest repositories in New York City: the New York Municipal Archives.

Ken, Assistant Commissioner of Department of Records and Information Services for the City of New York, talked about the collections of the archives – vital records, tax records, police records, almshouse records, mayoral records, legislative records, and more. Continue reading

Bruce Dearsyne: Strengthening Public History in NYS

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New-York-State-Map1Over the past few years, there has been a lot of discussion here on The New York History Blog about the status and role of local government historians, including, for instance, a summary of a special issue of the journal Public Historian three years ago on the status of history in New York State, and, most recently, Peter Feinman’s post “The State of Municipal Historians,” which resulted in many comments.

Local government historians are unique to New York State. They give us an edge over other states in the local history arena. Their potential is immense. But their status and role need to be strengthened. Continue reading

The State of Municipal Historians in New York

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new-york-county-mapNew York State requires every municipality to have a historian. This means every village, every town, every city, every county, and, of course, at the state level. Hamlets can ponder “should we or should we not have an historian, that is the question” but they are not legally obligated to have one. Nor are neighborhoods. That might seem self-evident outside New York City, but one should realize that the neighborhoods in the city can be substantially larger than even some cities.

Naturally, even when you are required to have a historian by state law there is no assistance from the state in support of that position. It is an unfunded mandate.

Let’s examine the state of these municipal historians. Continue reading

Lower Hudson Valley Public Historians Meeting

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APHNYS-Regions-Map1The Association of Public Historians of New York State (APHNYS), Region 3, will hold its 2014 meeting on Saturday, September 20, 2014 from 9:45 am to 2:00 pm at the Westchester County historical Society, 2199 Saw Mill River Road, Elmsford, NY. Region 3 includes Dutchess, Putnam, Westchester, Rockland, and Orange counties.

Registration for the 2014 APHNYS Region 3 Meeting should be mailed to: Suzanne Isaksen, APHNYS Region 3 Coordinator, 10 Windrift Lane, Walden, NY 12586-1524. Include the names and titles (e.g. “Town of Montgomery Historian”) of attendees, along with telephone and e-mail contact information. A fee of $10.00 per person is being charged to help defray costs of lunch and refreshments. Make checks payable to APHNYS. Continue reading

Chappaqua Doesn’t Exist! Peter Feinman On Place

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ChappaquaFD4Chappaqua doesn’t exist. So says Ken Jackson of Columbia University, a longtime advocate calling for New York State to promote New York history. This might seem strange to the many people who have heard of Chappaqua, and those who know someone who lives there. It might also seem strange because Jackson himself lives in Chappaqua.

Well, not exactly. Chappaqua is not a municipality. There are no Chappaqua mayor, police, court or any of the other government services we normally associate with a municipality in New York State. Chappaqua doesn’t have a municipal historian because it is not a municipality; it’s a hamlet, located in the Town of New Castle. Continue reading

Legislation Would Create A NYS History Commission

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nycapitolRecently I wrote about my lobbying experience in Albany and offered a number of suggestions about what needed to be done. Those posts generated responses on the difficultly of lobbying and the need to have an agenda.  The likelihood of the history community organizing around a single agenda seemed slim.

I am pleased to report however, that there is proposed legislation in the New York State Assembly which would mark such a giant leap forward. It’s so good, I can scarcely believe it exists. The legislation is from Steve Englebright (D- Setauket).  Continue reading

War of 1812 Historians Meeting Planned

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APHNYS-Regions-Map1Registration is now open for the special one-day Association of Public Historians of New York State (APHNYS) Region 6 conference to be held in Plattsburgh on Friday June 6, 2014 (with early arrival museum tour on Thursday evening June 5).

The conference focus is on the War of 1812,and specifically the Battle of Plattsburgh of September, 1814 with a focus on “how the community has embraced the annual commemoration of the Battle of Plattsburgh, and the excitement about the 200th anniversary commemoration upcoming this Fall, with international participation and events spanning three weeks.” Organizers are expected to  share their experiences of how this sentinel event brings together the community, historians, municipalities and visitors to gain a better appreciation of the unique position this area holds in history.” Continue reading

Essex County Historical Society Appoints New Director

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indexmap3Ticonderoga resident Diane O’Connor has joined The Essex County Historical Society as director. She replaces Margaret Gibb, who led the organization for more than 14 years and recently joined Lakes to Locks Passage as program director.

O’Connor brings to her new position more than 20 years of experience in non-profit management for diverse organizations, including The National Genealogical Society, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites (now the Civil War Preservation Trust). Most recently, she worked at Fort Ticonderoga. 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.

Peter Feinman: State of the New York State Historian

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New York State CountiesNew York State Historian Bob Weible recently asked if New York State History Month was dead. History Month was born in 1997 by an act of the New York State Legislature as an addition to the Arts and Cultural Affairs Law. It designated November as the month and defined the purpose of the event to celebrate state history including to recognize state and local historians.

In addition, the Education Department was authorized to promote the month although no specific suggestions were made beyond having student essay contests. The program limped along on a scattered and haphazard basis until 2002 when it apparently died without even the benefit of a funeral. Continue reading

Documentary Heritage Grants For Historical Records

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archives 2The New York State Archives has announced its Documentary Heritage Program grants for 2014-2015.

The Documentary Heritage Program (DHP) is a statewide program established by law to provide financial support and guidance to not-for-profit organizations that hold, collect and make available New York’s historical records. Funding is available to support projects that relate to groups and topics traditionally under-represented in New York’s historical record. Continue reading

Towers of Babel: New York’s Historical Enterprise

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home_revolutionHistory’s Babel: Scholarship, Professionalization, and Historical Enterprise in the United States, 1880-1940, by Robert B. Townsend was just reviewed on H-Net. While I will not be purchasing the book (I have enough to read already!), the review struck home. .

The author was the deputy director of the American Historical Association (AHA) and much of the book is through the prism of that organization. As one might expect from the title, Townsend’s concern is the fragmentation of the historical enterprise into bunch of organizations that do not speak to each other. Does that sound at all like the New York historical enterprise today? Continue reading

Peter Feinman: Whither the Public Historian?

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APHNYS-Regions-Map1With the annual meeting of the Association of Public Historians of New York State (APHNYS) fast approaching and the centennial of the local government historians law on the not so distant horizon, as Bruce Dearstyne just reminded us, it is appropriate to examine just what is expected from municipal historians.

One may ask the proverbial question, “How are you doing?” – and take an opportunity to address what the guidelines say, what is being done, and what should be done. Continue reading

NY Public Historians: Looking Back, Looking Ahead

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albany_state_education_buildingApril 11, 2013 marks the 94th anniversary of Governor Al Smith’s signing the law that established New York’s system of local government Historians (Laws of 1919, Ch. 181). Smith was a history-minded leader.

As an Assemblyman, he had sponsored the bill in 1911 that moved the State Historian’s office to the State Education Department and initiated the state’s local government records program. In 1919, his first year as governor, he was preparing to reorganize and modernize state government.

His approval of the Historians’ Law was a milestone event. New York was, and still is, the only state in the nation to declare preservation and dissemination of local history to be a public purpose so important that it is embodied in statute.
Continue reading

Community Narratives: The Importance of Story-Telling

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Cheers historic Bar ShotWe are a story-telling species. Storytellers need an audience. Storytellers and the audience need a place to meet. The venue may vary, the technology may change, the message evolves, but somehow, in some way, we will tell stories. They define who we are as individuals and as members of something larger than ourselves, a family, a community, a county, a state, a country, or a religion.

How exactly would we celebrate Easter or Passover without a story to tell? Would we even celebrate them if there were no story?  With these thoughts in mind, I would like to turn to some examples of the importance of storytelling and community which I have noticed. Continue reading

The Leadership Role of Municipal Historians

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19120822As the new year gets underway, it is appropriate to pause and reflect on open issues from years gone by. I am referring now to the role in 2013 of the county historian as a custodian for New York State history as we forge ahead with our Path through History Project.

The starting point for this investigation is an article which appeared on September 12, 2012 just after the summer launch in August entitled “New York State’s Curious, Century-Old Law Requiring Every City and Town to Have a Historian” by Amanda Erickson in The Atlantic Cities. Continue reading

Planning Your Spring County History Conference

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Summer is over. Fall is upon us. Schools are back in session (even in Chicago), and now is the time to start planning a Spring 2013 County History Conference.

It is a time of breaking bread and sharing stories among people with similar interests. We are a social species so bringing people together is good and it has advantages as people plan for collaborative activities in the future. Continue reading