January is the traditional time for looking forward and backwards according to the two-faced Roman god Janus. In that spirit, I wish to start 2013 with a look back on some developments in local and state history by focusing on Westchester County both because I live there and because I happen to go through an old folder of Westchester material as I was cleaning up. Continue reading
It is with deep regret and heavy heart that I have the onerous task to inform you that once again the world has come to an end. The passing of our beloved planet marks the third time in this still young century when we endured this ignominious ending to our long history.
First came the secular Y2K ending, then the Christian rapture in 2011, and now the Mayan recycling of 2012. The ending of the world has become as frequent as the storms of the century. We scarcely have time to catch our breath before once again the world will fall over its cliff into an abyss from which it can never recover. Continue reading
Ruin porn is in. Ruin porn is hot. Ruin porn is sexy. Ruin porn is the term coined by Jim Griffioen, who writes a blog about his life as a stay-at-home dad in Detroit.
As part of that effort he periodically posts photographs he has taken of the more than 70,000 abandoned buildings in his city. Such images included (as reported in the New York Times) “‘feral’ houses almost completely overgrown with vegetation; a decommissioned public-school book depository in which trees were growing out of the piles of rotting textbooks”. The term has become a familiar one in the city not without some misgivings by the locals as they watch tourists take souvenirs of their city back home. Continue reading
Experience the Civil War in New York with the new exhibit at the New York State Museum and representatives from related historic sites on Saturday, January 12, 2013 at a free Historyhostel / Teacherhostel event sponsored by the Institute of History, Archaeology, and Education. Continue reading
The Urban History Association held its sixth biennial conference at Columbia University, October 25-28. The final session that Sunday was a bit discombobulated as people were scurrying about trying to verify travel arrangements before Sandy hit. Continue reading
The annual conference of the Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums (MAAM) which I attended was held in Tarrytown, NY, on October 7-9. The conference rotates locations and since this year it was only a few miles away and had many sessions related to New York, it seemed worth attending. It is unlikely that I will attend next’s year conference in Washington, DC, but it definitely was worth attending this one. Continue reading
New York has been hit with another storm of the century (8 days, 2 hours, 25 minutes without power for me). I have lived through so many storms of the century that I must be challenging Methuselah for the longest-lived human being. Maybe it is time for the phrase “storm of the century” to be bid a not-so-fond farewell to be replaced by something more appropriate if less grandiose, like “storm of the year”! Continue reading
New York is not the only state turning to cultural heritage tourism or seeking to develop its historic community. Let’s look at our neighbor to the east and see what lessons we might learn from them.
Note – this post contains five items on what Connecticut is doing and four recommendations on what New York should do so it is too long to read on a computer at work in one sitting. Continue reading
The Greater Hudson Heritage Network (GHNN) held its annual conference on September 28 at the Henry A. Wallace Visitor Center, Hyde Park. The theme of the conference was “Mining the Museum: Using Your Existing Resources in New Ways” with Executive Director Priscilla Brendler presiding. The meeting was so-well attended I didn’t even have a chance to speak with the all the people I would like to have talked to. The format has been expanded beyond being primarily an awards ceremony to be more like the Museumwise conference with a plenary speaker followed by concurrent sessions but for one day instead of two. Continue reading
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
It is time for me to put up or shut up. My previous two posts have been about the Path through History project. I said the conference was a good first step but that the project was at the proverbial fork in the road. Many people in the historic community have witnessed these periodic forays into the world of cultural heritage tourism and our leery about another such effort no matter how sincere. I have pointed out some of what has been done already by different organizations throughout the state and raised the issue of where this project fits in given what has occurred.
The Path through History project held its long-awaited kickoff conference on August 28 in Albany. An estimated crowd of 250-300 people attended the all-day program which included lectures, breakout sessions, regional reports, a reception at the Executive Mansion … and great food. Continue reading
“Harlem Loses Its Bowling Alley” was part of the headline for an article in the New York Times on August 6, 2012. The article told the story, not of some hallowed bowling alley from the time when life was simpler, but from 2006 when with great fanfare and former President Clinton in attendance, Harlem once again had a bowling alley decades after its last one closed in the 1980s. Continue reading
Once upon a time, as all good stories begin, in the fair village of North Tarrytown (later to be renamed Sleepy Hollow), there was a beacon of light in the river that ran two ways.
Located a quarter mile from the shore of village on the river, this lighthouse had been built in 1882-1883 by strong and sturdy men back in the day when strong and sturdy men built and made things along the Hudson River and before it became a valley of ruins with a book of a similar name. Continue reading
The Union may have won the war but the South has won Civil War tourism and its legacy. It’s an extraordinary fact of life that wherever the National Park Service has a site, a battle was fought there! And they are all in the South with the major exception of Gettysburg.
Time and time again presentations on life back then in antebellum (before the war) times begin with Gone with the Wind, still the box-office champion adjusted for inflation. What story does the North including New York have to tell that can compare with the pageantry of the South, the chivalry of the idealized plantation, and the glamour of Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara, Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh? Freedom and preserving the Union that made the world safe for democracy in the three world wars in the 20th century should count for something, even for Confederates. Continue reading
The great Yogi said “when you come to the fork in the road, take it.” Truer words of wisdom were never spoken. I thought of this gem of Americana following my recent post about the Path through History sign project.
Appropriately, I will be presenting two responses from two people from two different regions, one private individual and one public employee, one by email with attachments and one by email and phone call. The two individuals will remain anonymous and I will present their thoughts in the order in which they were received. Continue reading
Regular readers know that I am a strong advocate of the role of the county historian as a promoter of historical education, community heritage, and cultural tourism. Although the position is a required by state law, the actual job requirements and benefits are left up to the individual counties. Continue reading
Everyone has heard of the ongoing troubles in Greece and the Eurozone but nobody has realized the importance of Saratoga to understanding this crisis until now.
Let me explain. It seems that Greece lied in its application to join the Eurozone. Then as might be expected it failed to perform adequately and was only able to cover up its shortcomings as a third world country trying to pass as a first world country for so long. After the Greek elections when a new government took office, the truth was revealed and all hell broke loose. Continue reading
Our Governor’s father, also a Governor, was a great admirer of Abraham Lincoln. The son wants to make history as the first President of Ellis Island origin. He has gained a reputation as a passion advocate for the restoration of the Capitol, so much so that he was said that he seemed “at times more like its chief historian—or at other moments, its chief architect, interior decorator and custodian” (New York Times). Continue reading
From time to time I receive notices about the activities various organizations have undertaken, sometimes from New York History itself. Some of these activities stand out as going beyond the routine. The good thing is they can be replicated. Continue reading