The journal New York History turns a century old in 2019 and this summer readers will find volume 100, issue number 1, in their mailboxes and see notices of the digital delivery of the journal in their email inboxes.
The most anticipated change at the journal, which is under new stewardship of Cornell University Press collaborating with the New York State Museum, is a welcome return to the past. The journal, after being a digital-only publication since 2012, will return to glorious print. Readers will be able to peruse bound paper issues and consult PDF and reflowable e-journals as their interests and reading needs determine. We know that paper and screens have their respective and complementary places in our reading lives, and the editors of the journal have ensured that all readers will have a choice of formats.
Other changes are afoot at New York History, and these address the present and look to the future. The journal will now be welcoming forthrightly submissions from and pertaining to the work of public historians, municipal historians, museum professionals, and archivists in addition to the standard excellent fare from academic historians. In the press releases, podcast conversations, and other online postings that accompanied the news that Cornell University Press and the New York State Museum would be publishing the journal these changes have been noted. Word has also traveled widely thanks to Twitter and email as different organizations shared this information with their members and followers. Here we want to write more about the expansion of the mission of the newly semi-annual journal (scaled back from a quarterly) and how this development reflects the heritage of New York History while addressing pressing needs in the history community.
In the past, New York History has touched on all of these fields and has drawn articles from people working in all of these areas. But now we will be doing that work in an intentional manner. This dedication to opening up the journal to the larger community of historians hearkens back to the founding of New York History. Begun in 1919 as the The Quarterly Journal of the New York State Historical Association, the journal came into existence at the same moment as the New York State Legislature passed the law mandating that every municipality appoint a historian responsible for preserving the history of his or her locality and fostering a local interest in history. (That law is now codified as part of Section 57.07 of the Arts and Cultural Affairs Law.) The journal has always been connected with the idea that a proper understanding of history is a necessary good of public life. Indeed, for a long time the State Historian was the editor of New York History and, with current State Historian acting as a current co-editor, the journal is returning to its roots connecting public and academic history.
The expanded mission of the journal also comes at a moment when most historians are moving out of sub-disciplinary silos and fostering conversation among people working in the academy, in museums, in archives, in town offices, and beyond. Public or, as folks like to say today, outward-facing scholarship is being supported by key professional organizations like the American Historical Association, National Council on Public History, and Organization of American Historians. Connections between historical scholarship and citizenship are also at the center of more and more conversations, and the public history impetus is driving new and influential ventures like Made by History at the Washington Post.
In its second century of publication, New York History will develop along the lines laid out by AHA, NCPH, and OAH so as to ensure that all historians whose work focuses on New York State benefit from sharing research, methods, and insights. We also expect the journal to be read and enjoyed by the general public in the state and beyond. Diversity of contributors, topics, and readers will be a hallmark.
In adjusting the editorial mission of the journal, the editors of New York History have looked to the Omohundro Institute as a model for welcoming the full community of historians. What Executive Director Karin Wulf and the whole Omohundro staff have done by expanding Liz Covart’s Ben Franklin’s World podcast, initiating the Doing History program of online and in-person workshops, and revamping Uncommon Sense is impressive. These new digital and public initiatives have occurred even as Omohundro has innovated the excellent journal William & Mary Quarterly and the award-winning books program.
If New York History can do just a small portion of that good work in five years — and, yes, we are giving digital humanities a serious look — we editors will be incredibly pleased. Anticipating what will be possible in 2024, but writing from 2019 and at the very beginning of this new era for the journal, we look to the Omohundro Institute — as well as New York State-based institutions like the Institute for Thomas Paine Studies, led by Nora Slonimsky at Iona College, and the center for local history that Michael Oberg is working to establish at SUNY Geneseo — because the historians associated with these exciting projects have shown how fruitful and necessary can be the integration of academic and public history (in all its variants).
At New York History, we join the larger project of connecting diverse sets of history experts whose work reflects the result of different methods, training, subject matter, and audiences. We expect great things, for the journal and for the whole history community in New York State, from this collaboration.
Robert Chiles, Senior Lecturer, Department of History, University of Maryland
Devin Lander, New York State Historian
Jennifer Lemak, Chief Curator of History, New York State Museum
Michael J. McGandy, Senior Editor, Cornell University Press (ex officio)
Aaron Noble, Senior Historian and Curator, New York State Museum