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Kudos to Putnam County Historian’s Office, the Oneida County History Center and for Upstate History Conferences

https://www.putnamcountyny.com/happy-birthday-putnam-county-celebrate-putnam-countys-history-june-14th/

This blog is dedicated to some examples of activities which I feel deserve attention and emulation. I do not mean to suggest that I am aware of everything the history community is doing. I do recommend that organizations use the New York History blog to announce and promote their events. It appears daily so it provides a very frequent and widespread venue for notifications.

What I am referring to are events outside the ordinary. Not a new exhibit. Not a lecture. Not a family day. Not a re-enactment. Not a one–day bus trip. Instead I will describe more unusual or special events. For example, in May I posted on blog on Promoting Local History: Here’s What People Are Doing. I mentioned then

Geneseo Center for Local and Municipal History
PASSPORT TO HISTORY (OLD COLONY REGION, MA)
SARATOGA COUNTY HISTORY ROUNDTABLE

See also Creating History Education Partnerships: Three Case Studies from March for other examples.

In this blog, I will address actions by the Putnam County Historian’s Office, the Oneida County History Center, and various history conferences undertaken by often small history organizations.

PUTNAM COUNTY DAY

On June 14, Putnam County celebrated its 207th anniversary. As you will note, the anniversary was a not a round-number anniversary. It was simply another one in an annual process. The event took place in the Historic County Courthouse in the county capital and next to the current county office building. One theme was the centennial of the 1919 homecoming from World War I. Doesn’t every county have a birthday? How do you celebrate your municipality birthday?

The opening remarks were by the County Executive.

All the village and town historians were recognized. In Putnam there are only six towns plus some villages so the individual presentations to each municipal historian did not take as much time as they might in some other counties. Still, how often are the municipal historians honored by their county?

Awards also were given to local residents who had achieved something significant in local history during the past year plus one lifetime achievement award. These awards recognized publications, archival work, preservation, and a lecture series. The family history recognition was for the diary of a World War I soldier with his descendants in attendance.

One award went to the Southeast Museum and the Brewster High School for the creation and performance of a World War I play based on local source documents in the community. This example of storytelling in local history was a subject in the blog History Storytelling: A Local Theatrical Experience last December.

All in all, it was day honoring local history and those who struggle to preserve it, something every county should do. If your county is doing something like this please let me know.

ONEIDA COUNTY HISTORY CENTER: Historical Selfie Scavenger Hunt

This activity I learned about through New York History blog. According to the website of the Oneida County History Center:

Explore Mohawk Valley history through this interactive, county-wide scavenger hunt. Grab your camera to learn about the people, places, and events that shaped Oneida County and your community. Document your journey with a photo or selfie and be sure to post and share. All ages are encouraged to participate with prizes for children age 18 and under. Pick up your clue sheet and instructions at the History Center or download from our website starting August 1st.

The 2019 Historical Selfie Scavenger Hunt invites you to explore the people, places, and events that shaped our community. Choose a county-wide adventure or a Utica-based version and follow the instructions. Be sure to share your adventure and post your photos on social media. Don’t forget to tag the History Center!

Download a copy below or visit us in person to participate. All entries must be received by Friday, August 30, 2019 at 4:00 pm. Contact Rebecca McLain at 315-735-3642 or rmclain@oneidacountyhistory.org with questions. Good luck! 

Two different maps are provided and I downloaded both of them. The Utica city map has 15 sites. The Oneida County map has 20 sites. Participants for the prizes are asked to visit 15 sites in either category. There are a variety of prizes based on age, speed of completion, and random selection.

The next step might be to create a professional development class for teachers based on visiting these sites.

Here again, this activity seems like something every city and county could do as a way to connect the residents of a community to the historic sites of the community. I know that other organizations have scavenger hunts but not necessarily for adults, over this large an area, or ones which incorporates social media.

HISTORY CONFERENCES

Recently I was on a conference call with a group planning a conference on women’s suffrage to be held in November in Syracuse. The Women’s Rights Alliance of New York State is an outgrowth of the people who had planned conferences on the centennial of suffrage in New York (2017). I attended and wrote about two of those conferences (Suffrage Centennial: Historians, NYS Tourism Officials Clash in 2015 and Women’s Suffrage Centennial Conference in 2016. Now they are regrouping and intend to hold one on the national suffrage amendment. My contribution to the discussion is what you should expect: to promote education and heritage tourism by not just listing history locations on a website, but by developing programs for teachers and tourists to visit them.

One should note that this topic would be an excellent one for another school play based on historic documents: what was your community during the vote to ratify the constitutional amendment? It’s possible it might produce some awkward moments the descendants of some of the voters then. Maybe it would be better to wait for prohibition!

My participation in this conference call made me realize once again that there are groups throughout the state that undertake such conferences. Some of them I have attended. To attend all of them would keep someone very busy just traveling around the state. As you might expect, they tend not to occur in the winter especially upstate. They also tend to be crowded together in what are considered the peak conference times in the spring.

Here is a list of some of the conferences I have attended at one time or another

Fort Plain Museum: on the American Revolution
Fort Ticonderoga: on the French and Indian War and the American Revolution
Liberty Museum and Arts Center: the Catskills
Underground Railroad History Project: Underground Railroad

I have not been to:

Canal Society of the State of New York: Erie Canal
Fort Ontario: Fort Ontario Conference on History and Archaeology
Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark: Peterboro Emancipation Days
John Brown State Historic Site: John Brown Day
Old Fort Niagara: Native American Symposium

Colleges sometimes have conferences about topics directly related to their mission and based on their location:

Iona College: Tom Paine
SUNY Oneonta: James Fenimore Cooper.

I also have an interest in Hudson River Art and William Johnson in case anyone wants to know.

As you can see, there is quite a lot going on. Conferences like these generate heads-to-beds, meaning people who attend require lodging. One might think therefore that I LoveNY would actively promote such events, more so than the local Path through History events which require no lodging. Similarly one might think there would be a statewide pool of funds organizations putting on conferences could draw on.

Nonetheless, despite the obstacles to be overcome, the conferences are held. The organizations and often volunteer people who devote countless hours to making these conferences work throughout the state deserve a lot of credit. They contribute to preserving the history of the state and country and help to educate others to continue the story. They answer the question sung at the end of Hamilton: who will tell the story? The people of these history organizations.

Kudos, again to Putnam County, the Oneida County History Center, and to all the people and organizations that host a wide range of history conferences.

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