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.
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