As discussed in a previous post on this New York History Blog, the state’s historical community might want to consider organizing an effort to commemorate New York State’s Birthday.
We could use April 20, the date the first State Constitution was completed in Kingston in 1777, or April 22, the date it was first read and officially proclaimed, bringing the new state into existence. This would give us an opportunity each year not only to review New York State’s historical origins, but also to call public attention to various aspects of the state’s 240+ years of history.
We might want to consider designating a historical driving trail, a good fit for the I Love New York’s heritage tourism “Path Through History” program, perhaps calling it the New York Statehood Trail. “Path Through History” has its own list of Revolutionary War sites. Continue reading
The New York State Museum will celebrate New York State History Month in November with a variety of free public programs for children, families, and adults.
The following is a schedule of free New York State History Month programs at the State Museum located at 222 Madison Avenue, Albany:
The New York State Museum has opened a new exhibition featuring artwork from the Empire State Plaza Art Collection. The People’s Art: Selections from the Empire State Plaza Art Collection is organized in collaboration with the New York State Office of General Services, which curates the Plaza Art Collection. The exhibition features 20 works, including both paintings and sculpture, by 17 artists such as Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Helen Frankenthaler, Franz Kline, David Smith, and Alexander Calder. The exhibition remains on view through September 3, 2017. Continue reading
Is New York’s “historical enterprise” really entering a new phase, as Bruce Dearstyne contends in his recent post? There certainly seems to have been some change going on in the New York State Office of Cultural Education. Perhaps most notably, New York is now employing a full-time State Historian for the first time since 1976 (not 1994, as Bruce suggests).
While this is certainly a step in the right direction, it would be naïve to allege that today’s State Historian position holds the same power and responsibility that it once did. Continue reading
New York State now has a new historian. In some ways that should seem like a routine announcement since the State is required to fill that position. However as people in the history community well know, the State, like many counties, cities, towns, and villages does not always comply with regulatory requirements. There is no penalty to the State for the failure to comply either and only a trivial unenforced one at the municipal level.
Even when the State and the municipalities do comply with the letter of the law, they don’t necessarily comply with the spirit. The position is often disrespected and/or disregarded excluding some ceremonial occasions and is not taken seriously when the real decisions of government are involved. The diminishment of the State position sets a poor but accurate example to the county executives, mayors, and town supervisors that local and state history really aren’t important regardless of any lip service at the press release level. How often is the voice of the history community actually heard in the REDC funding process (which is now beginning again for the 2016 cycle). How much funding is there for collaboration in the Path through History project regardless of how often the jargon is spoken? Message received. Continue reading
I would like to congratulate Devin Lander on his recently announced appointment as New York State Historian.
I have known and worked with Devin for several years and believe that he holds the potential to become an outstanding State Historian. He has solid grounding in New York State history and appreciates the power it holds to educate New Yorkers, build responsible citizenship, and strengthen the quality of life in communities across the state. He’s smart, principled, thoughtful, even-tempered, respectful, patient, and very professional. He works productively and well with others, listens to what other people have to say, promotes cooperation among diverse constituencies, and gets good things done.
At the same time that I applaud Devin’s appointment, I share some concerns of many, if not most, people in the state’s history community: municipal and academic historians, history teachers, students, archivists, librarians, museum professionals, historic preservationists, community activists, heritage and cultural tourism officials, genealogists, re-enactors, and a long list of others, including just plain old history buffs. We worry that Devin will find it difficult to succeed in his newly downgraded position within the New York State Museum. Continue reading
State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia today announced the appointment of Devin Lander as New York’s State Historian. Lander, who currently serves as the Executive Director of the Museum Association of New York (MANY), is expected to join the Education Department on May 19, 2016.
The State Education Department, the Department’s Office of Cultural Education, and the State Museum have been under fire for their handling of the State Historian’s position in recent years, including their downgrading the job to a lesser-paid position reporting to the Chief Curator of the State Museum. Among those critical of the decision to reduce the role of State Historian have been former State Historian Robert Weible and members of the Commission on Local and Public History, convened ten years ago by Deputy Commissioner for Cultural Education Carole Huxley to advise the Department of Education on the appointment of a State Historian. Continue reading
The role of New York State Historian has been downgraded by the Office of Cultural Education to a lesser paid position reporting to the Chief Curator of the State Museum.
Members of the historical community from across New York State – including former State Historian Robert Weible, who retired in July – had been quietly advocating for a stronger, more independent State Historian with a focus on Public History. Continue reading
When New York’s governor appointed the first State Historian in 1895, the Progressive Era was just getting underway. The appointment was part of a much larger reform movement to strengthen American democracy by professionalizing government and promoting more active and knowledgeable civic participation in public affairs.
Progressives were especially focused on public education, and in 1911 – seven years after the establishment of the State Education Department – New York moved its State Historian from the Governor’s office to the newly formed department. Continue reading
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.