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State of New York State History

History Organizations in the News

Historical Interpreter Karen Monti leads the County Historian's staff, interns and volunteers on tour of Washington's Headquarters in Newburgh as a special treat to kick off the New Year. Thank you also to Historical Interpreter Lynette Scherer and to Historic Site Manager Elyse Goldberg and Interpretive Programs Assistant Aaron Robinson.

With this post, I catch my breath and bring to you some items about what others are doing. It is good to share, learn from others, and draw on the experiences of different organizations and people beyond the annual conference…which most people can’t attend and even while there can only attend one session per time slot. I write this as I prepare to leave for the MANY conference in Saratoga Springs and will try to digest a whole lot of sessions in a short period of time while inevitably missing others. We don’t do a good job of disseminating the information presented conferences to those who could not attend.

In the meantime, here are some examples of activities of interest.

  • Teaching Social Studies in New York – a letter from the President of the New York State Council for the Social Studies about the problems with the State Education Department curriculum. The issue of local and state history should be part of the discussion.
  • Creating a center for the teaching of history focusing on civics – do we do this in New York? It would be nice to know what our historical societies are doing.
  • Intern Corner – do you have high school or college interns? What do they do? Do they receive credit of some kind? Hear from a high school student intern at a state historic site. Kudos to Orange County Historian Johanna Yaun for her enewsletter on history activities in the county including this intern post. Every county should have an enewsletter.
  • Archive problems – read about the travails of maintaining an archives in the state of our Vice President.
  • Where is the Midwest? – It seems like other places besides Upstate New York have identity issues.
  • Please enjoy this snapshot of what is going on in the history community.

    1. Teaching Social Studies in New York

    March 28, 2017

    Dear Colleagues,

    Over the last few weeks, I’ve sent you messages encouraging you to make your voice heard at NYSED’s ESSA regional meetings.  Monday evening, we sent a letter to Commissioner of Education MaryEllen Elia to express our concerns around the lack of social studies in NYSED’s initial ESSA planning.  You can view our letter HERE.

    We now ask your support in emphasizing this message and encourage you to contact the Commissioner and the Board of Regents directly.  To aid you in doing this, we have created a template you can use to contact the Commissioner and/or your local Board of Regents member.  Click HERE for a customizable template you can cut-and-paste.  A directory of contact information you can use to address your postal mail or email correspondence is also included therein.  With your help, we can place social studies on the table as a topic of conversation for our educational leaders and ensure the place of our discipline as the cornerstone in the well-rounded education of our students.  We must work together to make this a reality.

    Thank you sincerely for your support of this endeavor.  Don’t hesitate to contact me or any member of the NYSCSS Board of Directors with any questions or suggestions.


    Stephen LaMorte, President
    New York State Council for the Social Studies

    2. MHS Announces New Center for the Teaching of History at the Massachusetts Historical Society

    The Center aims to promote the importance of history education, civic literacy, and critical thinking to prepare our children to be informed and engaged citizens as well as contribute to the building of strong history content in the classroom.

    Committed to using its unique resources to improve and support the teaching of American history in all K-12 classrooms, the Massachusetts Historical Society (MHS) announces the formation of the Center for the Teaching of History at the Massachusetts Historical Society (CTH). In the wake of the 2016 presidential election and amidst current events, the importance of civic literacy and history in our everyday lives is more apparent than ever. Through the CTH, the MHS will continue to lead efforts to promote the central role of history in American culture with a variety of high-quality teacher workshops, student programs, and innovative online resources.

    “The MHS staff, Trustees, and Overseers see this as a watershed moment,” said MHS President Dennis Fiori. “At the close of our 225th anniversary celebration, we look forward to playing a leading role as a respected voice for the importance of understanding our nation’s past with the establishment of the Center for the Teaching of History.” He continued, “Under the leadership of Director Kathleen Barker, the new Center will enable us to better serve the public, promote the relevance of history, and improve the understanding of the role of civics in public life.”

    The CTH aims to promote the importance of history education, civic literacy, and critical thinking to prepare our children to be informed and engaged citizens as well as contribute to the building of strong history content for the classroom. It will support innovative and best practices in teaching history through programs, web-based resources, fellowships, and its support of National History Day.

    Central to the Society’s education program are workshops that immerse educators in the work of historians, provide them with opportunities to engage with scholars, analyze primary sources, and collaborate with colleagues on issues of pedagogy. The Center’s enhanced and newly developed offerings will allow teachers to energize the classroom experience and bring to life history for their students. The primary sources found in the Society’s collections provide the stories—and the evidence—that can help a student to understand that American history is a wonderfully diverse continuum of experiences that we all share. Through its leading role as the state sponsor of Massachusetts History Day, an affiliate program of National History Day, the CTH will increase its interaction with students. It aims to boost student participation from across the Commonwealth in the program and will continue to offer resources and workshops to encourage students to use MHS collections in their projects.

    “It is a joy to see years of hard work come to fruition with the formation of the Center,” commented Director of the Center for the Teaching of History Kathleen Barker. She continued, “The Center will empower educators to speak knowledgeably about the importance of history and civics education in the classroom, create community-based opportunities for teachers to promote civic literacy, and collaborate with organizations to advocate for robust curriculum frameworks and funding models that promote the teaching of history. I look forward to continuing my work with both teachers and students while we expand our programming, advocate for the importance of history in the classroom, and increase participation in Massachusetts History Day.

    3. The Intern Corner: My thoughts on a visit to George Washington’s Headquarters in Newburgh by Rowan Moses-Westphal

    Working as an intern at the historical department opens a whole host of opportunities that I haven’t previously been able to access. One of these opportunities was a private tour of Washington’s Headquarters followed by a lecture on the Huddy Affair. Despite living so close to Newburgh, I’d never gotten around to visiting such an important historical site, so this was quite a treat.

    Washington’s Headquarters is a relatively small house by twenty first century standards, but during it’s time as Washington’s base of operations, it was a mansion. The parlor has two windows out of style choice despite the cost of the extra firewood it would take to heat the room. The house itself was built in a traditional Dutch style and owned by Jonathan Hasbrouck’s widow Catherine Dubois Hasbrouck. In this house, Washington established a number of traditions we still follow. It was here that Washington refused to become a monarch in the budding nation, cementing the use of democracy. He quelled a rebellion forming amongst the discontented officers of the continental army, and designed and awarded the first Purple Heart medals.

    Learning about the Huddy Affair, our first international incident, was enlightening. The wrongful hanging of a prisoner by Loyalists and the angry retaliation of Patriots gave way to the first international crises of the new nation which fell to General George Washington to solve. The petty arguments that arose between neighbors, both here and broad, fueled the flame between loyalists and patriots. Local militias drove the war in a way the Continental Army could not. The militias acted as a police force for their respective towns. Although the militias’ primary duty was to keep the peace, and prevent slave uprisings and attacks from Indians, several, such as those led by Joshua Huddy made direct attacks on the British force. Due to the sheer number of militias and difficulty Congress was having with the Continental Army, militias had a certain freedom that the army did not and they used this freedom to their own benefit and personal gain. Patriots were able to take revenge on their Loyalist neighbors over past disputes with the premise of working to free the United States from tyrannical rule.

    Loyalist militias also used past vendettas as excuses to attack Patriots. Joshua Huddy attacked and killed Richard Lippincott’s brother, and Lippincott had Huddy wrongfully hanged in the name of Philip White. The Patriots, upon hearing of this wrongful execution, demanded recompense and randomly chose Charles Asgill should Lippincott not be delivered to the Patriots. Asgill happened to be the son of an influential couple, who had access to royal courts and were able to influence key figures in the hierarchy of the French court that their son should be freed or else France ought to withdraw their support.

    The personal vendettas that drove representatives on both sides of the conflict escalated to the point that France threatened to pull out of their support of us, and several countries announced they would refuse to view the new United States as a nation, all because of a wrongful execution and a random choice of their revenge. This is a prime example of how strong tensions and emotions can escalate a situation far beyond what could be imagined at the onset.

    Rowan Moses-Westphal is a student at Goshen High School and is an intern at the Office of the Orange County Historian. His favorite branch of American History is the Revolutionary War.

    4. The Continuing Saga of the Indiana State Archives

    by Stephen Towne

    The latest chapter in the saga of the Indiana State Archives is playing out in the halls of power in Indianapolis.  How the story ends is not yet known.

    For many years, the records forming the Indiana State Archives resided in the basement of the Indiana State Library, located on the state government campus in downtown Indianapolis.  A series of damaging floods and leaks during the 1990s prompted policymakers to remove the State Archives from the building to allow renovations and remodeling.  In 2001, workers moved the State Archives to a state-owned warehouse on the eastside of the city, miles from the State House and most state employees who used the records. The plan was that the move would be “temporary,” and policymakers considered finding a new home for the state’s documentary treasures, including building a new building to house them.  However, inertia took hold in the State House, and new occupants of the governor’s office put the matter on the back burner or, worse, flatly refused to consider a new building.  In the meantime, the terrible environmental conditions in the warehouse have taken their toll on the records.  Wild temperature and humidity fluctuations have damaged paper and microfilm.  Roof leaks, some of them caused by flying bullets, continue to soak records. Perhaps worst of all, the flat-roofed glorified shed is not strong enough to withstand tornadoes; one narrowly missed it several years ago.

    A few years back, with the state’s bicentennial (2016) approaching, the administration of Governor Mike Pence recognized the opportunity of both doing good and creating a lasting monument.  A new State Archives building would celebrate the state’s history in stone and mortar.  After years of effort with legislators, in 2015 the General Assembly voted to authorize a new State Archives building to the tune of $25 million.  The money was to come not from the state’s general budget, but from leasing cell towers on state-owned land around Indiana.  In September 2016, Gov. Pence announced a deal with an Ohio telecommunications firm.  But Indiana telecoms immediately cried foul, complaining that the deal was unfair.  Renegotiations commenced, but the situation changed when Pence found himself elected vice president and whisked away to Washington, DC, leaving the matter to his successor.  Governor Eric Holcomb promptly canceled the deal with the Ohio telecom and has suggested he is open to rebidding the cell-tower lease.  He has suggested but not committed to asking the General Assembly to fund the State Archives building in the regular budget.

    The hold-up on the cell-tower deal has halted architectural planning and negotiations with Indiana University, which had tentatively agreed to put the new State Archives building on the campus of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) in downtown, just a few steps from the State House.  Everything is on hold.

    Legislators are currently in session and considering their options.  Some are convinced that a new State Archives buildings is long overdue.  Others fret over costs.  Meanwhile, historians, archivists, genealogists, jurists, and other citizens are writing their legislators and governor to voice their frustration, tired of hearing that nothing is done to place the archives in a secure, safe, appropriate, and accessible facility that will serve citizens for years to come.

    If you are an Indiana citizen, please consider writing your state legislator urging funding of a new State Archives building.  If you are a researcher, please consider voicing your support for proper preservation of important records that document Indiana’s history. Thank you.

    Stephen E. Towne, President
    Friends of the Indiana State Archives
    Associate University Archivist
    IUPUI Special Collections and Archives

    5. “What is the Midwest?”

    by Patrick Cox, H-NET VP and Editor

    Earlier today, H-Midwest Board member Jon Lauck appeared on “Central Standard” on KCUR in Kansas City to discuss the topic “What is the Midwest?” It was a fun and informative half hour on our favorite subject. A lot of interesting (and some surprising) definitions of Midwest came up, and quite a bit of stereotype bunking was heard. (Like we say here, “‘the heartland’ is not all farms, not all white people, not all frozen, and certainly not all “nice.”

    If you missed it, KCUR has posted the show here.