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.
In 1997, the New York State Legislature established November as New York State History Month “to celebrate the history of New York state and recognize the contributions of the state and local historians.” The celebration has been mostly ignored since 2002.
In 2014, the New York State Museum launched a New York State History Month page on its website, which included links to state-wide and regional history resources and a listing of museum events. This year, there is a more comprehensive History Events web calendar. Continue reading
Once upon a time, as all good fairy tales begin, there was a New York State Path through History Taskforce. Some of you may even remember it. August 28, 2015, marked the three-year anniversary of the failed project and since the NYS Historian who was a member of that taskforce has resigned, it is beneficial to examine the fate of this taskforce for the lessons it teaches about what happened. Will we learn from the past or are we condemned to repeat it?
At the kickoff event for the Path project, attendees received two glossy, multicolored booklets. One had a list of the “iconic highway signage” which was to be produced; the other had the conference agenda, a description of the regions with a listing of the selected sites, and the taskforce bios. Continue reading
The New York State Museum has opened a new exhibition commemorating the 50th anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone for the Empire State Plaza that occurred on June 21,1965.
The Empire State Plaza at 50 is organized in collaboration with the New York State Office of General Services and features dozens of images as well as artwork from the Empire State Plaza Art Collection. 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
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
The New York State Board of Regents has appointed Dr. Lisa Amati as New York State Paleontologist.
As State Paleontologist, Dr. Amati is responsible for curating the New York State Museum’s paleontology collection, conducting paleontological field and laboratory research, overseeing the development of research grants and participating in the development of public and educational programs. Continue reading
The New York State Museum and the University at Albany are hosting an annual open house of an active archaeological dig site in Schoharie where more than 300,000 artifacts have been uncovered in the past decade.
The site is the home of an eight-week archaeology field school where undergraduate and graduate students preserve and catalog artifacts, which ultimately become part of the Museum’s collections. Continue reading
The New York State Board of Regents has unveiled a 14 million dollar four year plan to renovate the New York State Museum’s exhibition galleries. The master plan calls for 35,000 square feet of new exhibitions, a changeable wall system and new interactive technology and media. Continue reading
The New York State Museum will open a special exhibition honoring two World War I Army soldiers from New York State who will posthumously receive the Medal of Honor on June 2, 2015. Private Henry Johnson and Sergeant William Shemin will receive the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military honor, in a White House ceremony led by President Barack Obama. Continue reading
The New York State Museum in Albany recently acquired a series of 1917 Franklin County women’s suffrage petitions from Jean Kubaryk, a teacher at North Warren Central School District. Ms. Kubaryk had been displaying the petitions in her classroom for years, but decided to donate the petitions to the Museum so they can be preserved for future generations.
After the petitions were officially acquired by the Museum, staff sent copies of the petitions to Ms. Kubaryk so her students can assist in researching the women who signed the petitions. Continue reading
Since 2012, archaeologists from the Cultural Resources Survey Program (CRSP) at the New York State Museum have been working alongside a highway construction project in Utica, uncovering artifacts from the early 19th century.
The CRSP work in Utica centers around the location of the former Chenango Canal. Archaeologists have uncovered evidence of what life was like in the Utica area in the early to mid-1800s, from pieces of pottery to household goods to children’s toys. Continue reading
The Erie Canal directed the course of New York and American history. When it opened in 1825, the “boldest and biggest American engineering project of its century” unlocked the Western interior for trade and settlement. New Yorkers in particular have played a critical role in the Erie Canal story.
The New York State Museum’s curators are currently seeking stories, objects, and images for an upcoming exhibition “New York’s Erie Canal: Gateway to the Nation”, planned for 2017. Continue reading
The New York State Museum in Albany has issued a call for artifacts, images and stories for its upcoming exhibit “Votes for Women Celebrating New York’s Suffrage Centennial”, planned for the Fall of 2017.
November 2017 will mark the centennial of women winning the right to vote in New York State. Women in the state played a pivotal role in the struggle for women’s suffrage and equal rights beginning in 1848 with the Seneca Falls Convention through the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920 and beyond. Continue reading
The New York State Museum has opened a new exhibition featuring Shaker photographs. A Promising Venture: Shaker Photographs from the WPA features the photography of Noel Vicentini and documents Shaker sites, architecture, craft and people.
On display in Photography Gallery through December 31, 2015, the exhibition is organized by Hancock Shaker Village and features more than 100 photographs. This exhibition complements the State Museum’s 7,000 square-foot exhibition, The Shakers: America’s Quiet Revolutionaries, which explores the history and culture of the Shakers. Continue reading
The New York State Museum has opened a new exhibition featuring contemporary Native American artwork. “Represent: Contemporary Native American Art” features twenty-one artworks created by eighteen artists from Native American Nations in New York State.
On display through September 20, 2015, the exhibition features a variety of contemporary Native American artwork. From baskets and beadwork to modern art, the artwork celebrates the traditional roots of Native American artistry through modern expression. Continue reading
An Irrepressible Conflict: The Empire State In the Civil War (SUNY Press, 2014) documents the pivotal role New York State played in our nation’s bloodiest and most enduring conflict. As the wealthiest and most populous state in the Union, the Empire State led all others in supplying men, money, and material to the causes of unity and freedom. New York’s experience provides significant insight into the reasons why the war was fought and the meaning that the Civil War holds today. Continue reading
New York State History Month (November) is just over half through. November was designated in statute in 1997 as State History Month but it has been mostly ignored, until this year.
Last year, State Historian Bob Weible wrote a post in these pages entitled “Is NYS History Month Dead?” which suggested using the month for public history events. Thanks to Bob’s leadership and initiative, State History Month now has a higher visibility and momentum, as described in his recent follow-up. Continue reading
The New York State Museum will open a new major exhibition about the history and culture of the Shakers on November 15, 2014. The Shakers: America’s Quiet Revolutionaries will feature over 150 historic images and nearly 200 Shaker artifacts, including artifacts from three Shaker historical sites: the Shaker Heritage Society, Hancock Shaker Village and the Shaker Museum | Mount Lebanon.
In the late 1700s, the Shakers sought religious freedom in America, but their unique culture and spiritual practices set them apart from society. Their devotional routines as well as their product innovations and views towards gender equality seemed revolutionary. Continue reading
The New York State Museum will celebrate New York State History Month (November) with a variety of free, public programs for children, families and adults.
The Museum will also open a new exhibition that explores the history of the Shaker community on November 15, The Shakers: America’s Quiet Revolutionaries. Continue reading