The 20th Annual Albany History Fair has been set for Sunday, May 5th, at Historic Cherry Hill from noon to 4 pm. This years theme will be Albany – The Great American Story, and will delve into the Capital City’s literary history, draw from local collections to examine the cultural history of reading and writing, and use the art of storytelling to illuminate the human narratives embedded in the history at Cherry Hill and beyond.
This year’s History Fair will offer numerous activities, all free of charge. One of the fair’s key offerings will be a staged poetry reading, performed by actors in the historic house. The readings will be drawn from original works in the Cherry Hill manuscript collections — works written by the bygone occupants of the home — as well as selections from the great English-language poets enjoyed by the Cherry Hill family and their peers. The performance will be accompanied by scholarly commentary by Dr. Tamara Thornton of the University at Buffalo unpacking the cultural context of the pieces.
The fair will include an opportunity to tour the Van Rensselaer-Rankin family library housed at the Edward Frisbee Center for Collections & Research with Dr. Philip Eppart, rare books expert and professor in the Information Sciences Department at the University at Albany, and Deborah Emmons-Andarawis, Cherry Hill’s Executive Director. The 5,000 books collected by the Cherry Hill family span the sixteenth through the 20th century and represent genres enjoyed throughout that period.
For families, there will be a story circle featuring books by Albany authors and illustrators and picture books from the Cherry Hill collections. There will also be activities for children of all ages that use historical artifacts and other tangible items as the building blocks for imaginative storytelling and creative expression.
Heritage organizations from across the region will offer information about their programs at tables throughout the duration of the fair.
Every year the History Fair offers illuminating scholar’s talks — this year’s lineup includes a discussion with Paul Grondahl, Director of the Writers Institute, award-winning journalist, and long-time staff writer for the Times Union, about his career as a journalist in the Capital Region; a presentation and book signing by Erik Schlimmer, author of the acclaimed Cradle of the Union, published in 2018; and an illustrated talk by Albany City Historian, Tony Opalka, about the Albany of Pulitzer-winner William Kennedy’s famous “Albany Cycle” novels, set in the 1920s and 1930s.
The fair will be immediately followed by a reception at 4 pm honoring William Kennedy for his significant contributions to Albany’s literary identity. The reception will be open to Honorary Committee members. Those interested may join the Honorary Committee, by signing up here.
The fair itself is free and open to the public. CDTA will be providing a free trolley service between the Albany History Fair at Historic Cherry Hill and Living History Day at Ten Broeck Mansion from 1 to 3 pm Historic Cherry Hill is located at 523 ½ South Pearl St., Albany.