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A Missing Element Of Upstate History Tourism

Now that Memorial Day has passed and the summer tourism season is officially underway, it should be no surprise that the New York Times is full of articles about tourism. One article features Greece and the lure of the classical world for tourists. Greece has been experiencing a rocky road as of late but tourists are returning now that the situation appears to have stabilized.

Greece needs a shot in the arm from tourists given the plunge in the economy, so it would seem that the classically-named cities of upstate New York and the actual homeland of those cities have something in common.

Visitors to Greece are advised to check the website Living in Greece before leaving home. One person who took that advice is an American high school teacher who brought 30 students to Greece in April. According to news reports, his students gazed upon the Parthenon in “awe”  demonstrating that seeing something in person is different than seeing it on a TV or computer monitor. The upstate New York architectural equivalent would be all those classically-inspired buildings dotting our own landscapes. So let’s hear it for field trips to historic sites!

Interestingly, this high school teacher did not choose to create his own “Path through Greece,” but instead chose an American tour company. Undoubtedly this saved time and aggravation. He didn’t have to conduct internet research for places to visit. He didn’t need to become an expert on the logistics of foreign travel, which sites were open on which day, and for what hours. Experts did that for him, experts who offer a variety of packages to accommodate individual needs.

There are two lessons to be learned from his experience:

1. Where is the Teaching in New York History program? If I could arrange for a busload of teachers from Vermont to travel in New York, to stay in New York motels, and eat at New York restaurants as part of a Teaching American History program, then why can’t New York State create (meaning fund) a Teaching New York History program to do the same?

2. Where are the tour operators in the Path through History program?  If I could arrange for teachers to visit the sites in the Champlain, Hudson, and Mohawk Valleys, then tour operators certainly can do the same. So far there are no paths in the Path through History project, just one-shot visits mainly by local people who go home at night.

What efforts have been taken to develop paths with the people who specialize in tours? I recognize that there is more going on in the project than I am aware of, but so far I have not heard of anything being done in this area. Suppose that teacher had wanted to tour with 30 people, students, teachers, history lovers, or all of the above, in New York State, where would he have turned?

At the upcoming Conference on New York State History, the State Historian, the New York State Historical Association, the Association of Public Historians of New York State, and other history related organizations will meet privately to discuss the direction of history-themed activities in the state.

I look forward to the results of that discussion.


5 thoughts on “A Missing Element Of Upstate History Tourism

  1. “What efforts have been taken to develop paths with the people who specialize in tours? I recognize that there is more going on in the project than I am aware of, but so far I have not heard of anything being done in this area. ”

    I have heard that the project is planning to distribute glossy brochures describing historic sites to bus stations and train stations. Which is totally ridiculous. Unless the bus companies are involved in offering some kind of tour, they won’t be stopping at any of these historic sites or even driving by them. You can glimpse some historic sites from the train – for a minute – if you are sitting on the correct side of the train.

  2. Peter,

    So am I waiting for the outcome of this private meeting of the Three top New York State people regarding History and where we are going in New York State. This meeting in Cooperstown I only heard about through New York History material sent through email from the Adiorondacks. Believe me next year I will plan on attending their meeting as I assume Historians are invited. Just like at the APHNYS annual State Conference, Historical Association Presidents of local municipalities were invited. I”m sure you will have a report for us!

    Thanks, Peter


    1. A very good article and some questions that we’ve often wondered about as well. The pathways through history program is a great idea, but as far as the actual mechanics of how it’s supposed to work, that appears to be more of a mystery. We’d LOVE to be involved with this initiative. We actually offer multiple historic tours as well as professional guide services of the type discussed in the article, unfortunately we’ve never been contacted by anyone representing the pathways through history program to discuss any type of participation…

  3. When giving tours or organizing one do not for get about the Native American history of New York. The Mohican Indians alive and well in Wisconsin have a long history in New York.

  4. Peter,
    The trip to Greece you describe probably cost each student $2500 – $4500 depending on the number of days involved. The student’s families and teacher probably put together fund raising events over a two yr period to help defay a majot portion of this cost. Because Greece receives requests for tours from all over the world, tour companies can cost justify assembling the infrastructure needed to deliver a suitable product.

    Dr. Judith Wellman and I put together a Teaching American History all day bus tour for a group of local teachers throughout Wayne County. Our topic was the Underground Railroad and covered parts of two counties here in central NY. We worked months on the tour with talks at each of the stops, packets for each teacher. All this was done at “NO COST” to the participating school districts. A grant covered the cost of the project coordinator which included the school buses and lunch, however, Dr. Wellman and myself received no compensation for any aspect of the tour program….not even the printing of the handout packets. This was one such program topic covered over a three year period. The teachers involved loved the program.
    Dr. Wellman and I have not been asked to do this again for any group so in essence, this was a one shot deal customized program and was a donation of our respective organizations. Both Dr. Wellman and myself have full time jobs so this was in fact a donation to the school systems and the National Teaching American History Program.

    So, tell me how this would work on a statewide basis? All the best, Peter Evans

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