This week I came across an article about Joe Bagley, the 31-year- old archaeologist who has been put in charge of one million mostly un-cataloged City of Boston artifacts. Underpaid and overburdened, he’s found ways to triage the projects that come at him each day. He has to be a historian, a fundraiser, a bureaucrat, a volunteer coordinator, a social media guru, an artifact guardian, a cheerleader for preservation, a meticulous registrar, and a broad minded strategic planner, all at the same time.
You’re not alone, Joe. This has become the narrative of the post-recession workplace. It’s like a reality TV premise: we give you poverty level pay and a mountain of responsibility, and expect you to turn this organization around with your hipster ingenuity. I see it so often that I’ve started to refer to it as the martyr-hero motif. Continue reading
If the walls of the Gomez Mill House could talk, what a story it could tell.
Despite the hard stone construction of the building, the sentiment is gentle: “If you have a warm heart, you are welcome.”
The alert observer will see hearts in the designs around the home and grounds, and in the artwork. It’s a place that has been witness to over 300 years of history: not only of Orange County, but of the United States. It has seen days as a business operation, sending construction materials to New York City; it has overheard secret intelligence meetings during the Revolutionary War; it has also been a working farm growing fruit and breeding purebred animals. Built by Jewish businessman Luis Moses Gomez, it’s also the oldest known Jewish dwelling in the United States. Continue reading
In recent weeks I have had the opportunity to attend and participate in three regional and county history community meetings. These included the annual meeting of the Greater Hudson Heritage Network; a meeting of Region 3 (mainly the Hudson Valley) of the Association of Public Historians in New York State (APHNYS); and the Sullivan County History Conference
These three meetings provided opportunities to meet with colleagues, discuss important issues, and learn what’s happening. What follows are some highlights from those meetings. Continue reading
There’s a crisis in historical societies and historic house museums across the nation. Membership dues and visitation are in decline. The costs of maintaining buildings and collections is exhausting resources.
Volunteers are under pressure to digitize archives and make resources more widely available to the public without having the expertise or budgetary supports that would be necessary to do so. Exhibits and programming are stagnant while trustees work tirelessly to triage the symptoms. And the public is largely unaware of the treasures that these institutions have to offer. Continue reading
Heritage tourism is a new name for an old concept. As an archaeology student in Greece, I remember seeing Lord Byron’s name carved on the Temple of Poseidon. His mark among the hundreds of forgotten names reminds us of the well-established motif of traveling to the classical world as part of the Grand Tour. The German word “Bildungsreisen,” used among the nineteenth century elite in Europe, described travel for educational and cultural enlightenment. Continue reading
The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has cut down the Balmville Tree, a historic and unusually large Eastern Cottonwood tree that has been growing since before 1699 in Balmville, a hamlet in Town of Newburgh, Orange County. The tree sat at the intersection of River Road, Commonwealth Avenue and Balmville Road at a place commonly known as the Balmville Tree Circle. It was believed to be the oldest eastern cottonwood tree in America.
DEC issued a statement to the press saying the tree was deemed “an immediate threat to passing traffic” by DEC and Newburgh officials, “due to its deteriorated condition and a greatly expanded crack”. The statement said DEC consulted with a professional arborist who inspected the tree and found it to be an extremely high risk to public safety and recommended removal. Continue reading
Blink and another house is bulldozed. Most don’t even notice, so I’d like to tell you the story of what happened in my backyard. Unfortunately, it does not have a happy ending.
In Rosalie Fellows Bailey’s Pre-Revolutionary Dutch Houses and Families in Northern New Jersey and Southern New York, the Lent House (built in 1752) is linked to Abraham de Ryck, one of the earliest settlers in New Amsterdam. The house was built by or for Abraham Lent, who served as Colonel of the First Regiment of Militia of Fort Orangetown during the American Revolution. Continue reading
Jurassic World, showcases the plight of executive directors of destination tourist sites in continually developing newer and more exciting exhibits to attract an increasingly bored public. The exhibits at Jurassic World are even more thrilling than our best American Revolution or Civil War reenactments. Continue reading
William E. Mapes, a native of Florida, New York, volunteered in the summer of 1862 to save the Union. In this he was no different from any of the 300,000 men who signed up to fight in a war they had expected to be already over. President Lincoln and the loyal governors of the North called upon the eligible male population to enlist before conscription began. If they did so, they could serve with friends and neighbors in a regiment commanded by men they had known most of their lives. Continue reading
James Eldridge Quinlan’s History of Sullivan County is generally regarded as one of the most thorough and entertainingly written local histories. Published in 1873, Quinlan’s history is the undisputed bible of Sullivan County’s past, and yet it is not without its shortcomings. Some have criticized what they view as his selective exclusion of material – he does not, for instance, write much about the Civil War, and it has been said that this was because he was a Copperhead, or a southern sympathizer. And each year in March, Women’s History Month, we are reminded that he afforded minimal space in his writings to the women of the era.
That makes the few women he does write about stand out even more than they might otherwise, and no woman receives greater praise from Quinlan than Phebe Reynolds Drake. Continue reading