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Election Results: Amazon versus Hallmark

Amazon decided to locate its new headquarters in Long Island City, Queens, New York, and Alexandria, Virginia. These two locations possess the characteristics Amazon considers desirable.  They have highly educated and mobile workforces. They are located at both national and international transportation hubs. They have significant other business sectors so Amazon will not be the 600 pound gorilla that everyone turns towards to solve local problems. They have an excitement about them: people want to move there. The bottom line is that the midsize cities of mid-America simply do not have the base to support the Amazon behemoth. The other major cities simply do not have the resources or the proximity to the politicians and regulators Amazon needs to buy and sell.

As it turns out, Amazon probably would have chosen these two locations even if there had been no government prostitution. Other communities made more lucrative offers but they could not match the actual requirements for a successful match. For all we know, Amazon may well have been leaning towards these two winning locations even before the search began even if they it never consciously acknowledged it to itself yet alone to the public. In the meantime, Amazon gathered a great deal of information about a multitude of sites throughout the country that will be useful.

One cannot help but notice that the desirable characteristics for Amazon coincide with the burgeoning demographic areas of the Democratic Party. By contrast Republican areas were not even in the running.

Politically, Amazon’s choice in New York will not make much difference. New York already is a democratic state. Republicans have no chance of winning any statewide election. At the state level success for a Republican is obtaining 40% of the vote. Its last hold in power, the State Senate, witnessed an eight seat drop this past election. Instead of vying for majority power it has had for roughly 75 years with some breaks, Republicans now are an also-ran with little if any power to do anything if the Democrats are united. Even without Amazon, the 2020 census is likely to accelerate this trend as the one-party city itself and the Democratic suburb offshoots gain in power. In the reapportioning, the Republicans are likely to lose even more of what little they have left at the federal and state level.

The situation is a little different in Virginia. Republicans still have no chance of winning a statewide election there but the margins are not as stark as in New York. Part of the difference is due to one-party Washington, D.C. not being in the state of Virginia the way one-party New York City is in New York. As the Washington suburbs served by the Metro continue to expand especially with Amazon, the state will become more and more Democratic. It will not take a coin toss anymore to determine who is in power in the legislature. Republicans in Virginia will be restricted to the rural non-growth areas. The biggest difference from New York is where upstate New Yorkers retire to the South, rural Virginians are already there.  Amazon is quite willing to sell to these people but it would not want to locate there.

Hallmark’s audience is quite different from Amazon’s. The Hallmark movie universe tends to be the rural one with mainly white Christians, probably Protestants. If the city is involved, such as New York, it is the place the hero/heroine leaves. They either return home to be reconnected with their loved ones and to save the family home/store/factory. They tend to be in their thirties so they may have known some success in the big city but it comes with a price to their soul and happiness. They regain their soul when they return to the place where everyone says “Merry Christmas” and the community lighting of the Christmas tree is a big deal…unlike say in New York City where Rockefeller Center is devoid of all signs of Christmas and no families are present!

If they are not from the rural paradise and are the mean person sent there to shut it down or buy the store/factory/inn, then they soon succumb to its charms for its money they have and peace they lack. Hallmark could tell big city-based Christmas stories but they are the exception not the rule despite their being where the American people live.

And if there is not a rural American paradise to which to return, then there is always a small kingdom in Europe that no one has ever heard of desperate for an American princess. Considering the real stories of not only Grace Kelly but Meghan Markle, it turns out that fairy tales can come true.

Still the Hallmark world has an attraction to the Amazon world but only a part-time basis. People in the city buy second homes but rarely in another city. Someone in New York does not buy a second home in the Boston or Philadelphia area. They may visit a child in college in those cities but for a second home for weekends, summer, and maybe retirement, they often chose the Hallmark world. Excluding the glitzy Hamptons, many New Yorkers choose to go north to the Hudson Valley, the Catkskills, the Berkshires, and beyond. They want land, they want space, they want peace and quiet as long as they can go to Starbucks and get the delicacies and entertainment they want. These people do not want to live in Mayberry, Bedford Falls, or Cicely, Alaska. It’s nice to leave the rat race and visit Brigadoon every now and then. They need the Field of Dreams but only for a moment.

Did you ever notice how popular and important Friday Night Lights was for people who did not live in a Friday Night Lights community? A Friday Nights Light community is a Hallmark community with more realism. It does have conflicts. It does have tensions. It does have rivalries with similar neighboring communities. But unlike the Hallmark communities, the Friday Night Lights communities gather together every Friday and not just once a year. In these communities, the people have their community songs, their community flags and banners, their community traditions, and a community spirit that is passed on from generation to generation. If you buy a second home in such a community you will be an outsider even if your city money enables you to throw your weight around. This separateness especially will be true if you have no kids attending the local schools.

In this regard, a Friday Nights Light community is like a Jane Jacobs city block or street. The social fabric is strong. People have a sense of place, a sense of belonging, a sense of community. These are not the characteristics of an Amazon community. The people who move to the big cities in other states have limited connection to the history of that state, that city, that community. Here in New York we are celebrating the bicentennial of the building of the Erie Canal. That project put New York on the national map on its way to becoming the world capital. That project launched a can do period in American history that lasted until we placed a man on the moon. Yet today the Erie Canal has no meaning to the people of the city. It remains an underutilized asset of American history in upstate New York of little interest to people in downstate New York. They would sooner visit the canals of Europe than those of New York.

The fate of the Erie Canal story highlights the shortcomings of the piecemeal approach. America has a big story to tell. What the two political parties have in common is that neither is trying to tell it. No candidate proposes a vision for We the People of the 21st century and the less said about our shallow, superficial, simple-minded President the better. Clearly there is a need for such a vision. Clearly there is a need for such a storyteller. Clearly there is a need to connect America’s citizens to the story of their country. In 1976, my father temporarily relocated to Washington, D.C., and bunked with Congressmen to reduce living expenses when he worked on the Bicentennial. In July 2016, the United States Semiquincentennial Commission was established in preparation for the 250th anniversary of the United States. It will occur on July 4, 2026, the bicentennials of the deaths of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams on July 4. Will we be a united country then or will the experiment have run its course?

Is I Love NY Familiar with Your Site (Days 2and 3)

Mohawk Country, Inc.

In this post, I complete the review of the familiarization tour in Central New York by I Love NY in August. The background information on the participating tour operators and the first day of the three day tour was presented in Is I Love NY Familiar with your Historic Site. At the conclusion of the post, I noted three history topics touched upon in the tour:

1. The Palatine migration to America and the Mohawk Valley
2. The American Revolution in the Mohawk Valley
3. The Erie Canal

and asked “Let’s see what other sites were included in the remaining two days of the tour” related to these topics. These remaining days shed light on how if at all I LoveNY pulls all the sites together.

Monday Aug. 28th: Oneida & Chenango Counties

8:30-9:30am: Breakfast presentation with the DoubleTree Hotel Utica team (2nd floor ballroom)

9:45am SHARP: Depart DoubleTree Hotel Utica

Wolf Mountain Nature Center – Smyrna, NY (Chenango County): Will Pryor, Founder & Head Animal Curator will lead a walking tour (approx. 1 mile) to meet the animals, learn about how the center formed & purpose in having a wolf sanctuary. A non-profit organization situated on 60+ acres of woods, fields, and ponds in the rolling hills of Chenango County in upstate NY. Educated, dedicated volunteers will introduce animals, teach about their diets, habitats, and share personal stories about the center’s animals.

12:30pm (approx.): Northeast Classic Car Museum – Norwich, NY (LUNCH) (Chenango County): Tour and enjoy lunch in this educational facility that preserves, interprets and exhibits vehicles related to the evolution of transportation, with particular emphasis on the role of the automobile and its impact on American culture.

Destination Group Travel Show at Turning Stone Resort & Casino – Verona, NY (Oneida County):

The Destinations Group Travel Show is an intimate, free-flowing networking opportunity bringing US tourism suppliers (hotels, attractions, destinations, tours, etc.) to you in a free-flowing tradeshow atmosphere, allowing you to gather new ideas and inspiration when creating unique itineraries and planning travel destinations in New York and beyond!

Don’t forget your business cards!!

Turning Stone Presentation and site inspections by the Turning Stone Casino team.

Destination Group Travel Show Networking & Dinner Reception and enjoy the Casino!

9:30pm (approx.): Program at Turning Stone Casino ends

A little time to enjoy the Casino on your own

10:30pm SHARP: Bus will depart for hotel

11:00pm (approx.): Arrive to DoubleTree Hotel Utica

Note – As previously reported, in January 2016, I participated in a workshop called by the Oneida Nation to discuss funding for a possible documentary on the Oneida emphasizing their participation on the American side in the American Revolution.  At my suggestion NPS staff from the Fort Stanwix site in Rome who also manage the NYSOPRHP site for the Battle of Oriskany were invited and did attend. The Oneida maintain a cultural center as part of the Turning Stone complex. It does not appear from the description that the Oneida heritage was part of this tour.

In another post, New York State Indian Paths through History,  I reported on the challenge in creating an itinerary encompassing all the Haudenosaunee peoples. This can be considered a fourth history topic of the Mohawk Valley.

Tuesday Aug. 29th: Oneida & Montgomery Counties

Today is check-out day! Please bring your luggage to the front desk to be stored (unless you are staying Tuesday night).

Breakfast buffet at DoubleTree Hotel Utica is available starting at 6:30am (2nd Floor Ballroom)

8:45am SHARP: Depart DoubleTree Hotel Utica

Liberty Fresh Market/Taste NY & Erie Canal Lock E13 – Fultonville, NY (Montgomery County): Lock E13: Taste NY representative will give an overview of the facility and how to coordinate groups to stop there. History and overview of the Erie Canal; past, present and future. https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-opening-new-lock-e-13-living-history-rest-area-mohawk-valley

[Note – In the Mohawk Valley Teacherhostel/Historyhostel we did not stop at this lock. We did spend time at the NYSOPRHP canal site at Schoharie Crossing.]

Arkell Museum – Canajoharie, NY (Montgomery County): Museum tour and hands-on activity. The Arkell Museum celebrates the history and culture of New York’s Mohawk Valley and America itself with works by legendary 19th- and 20th-century painters alongside advertising art for iconic Beech-Nut products that were made in the area. The museum features more than 350 paintings and sculptures.

[Note – In the Mohawk Valley Teacherhostel/Historyhostel we did stop here.]

Fort Plain Museum – Fort Plain, NY (Montgomery County): Abbreviated tour and Mohawk Country discussion. Established by the Mohawk Indians and settled by soldiers during the American Revolution, the village of Fort Plain contains fascinating and significant history captured at the museum. Visitors can share common ground with Gen. George Washington, who visited the site in 1783.

[Note – In the Mohawk Valley Teacherhostel/Historyhostel we did stop here. For three years now the Museum has held an American Revolution conference including talks and bus tours.]

1:30pm (approx.): Saranac Brewery – Utica, NY – (LUNCH) (Oneida County): Tour of the Brewery and lunch, including Utica specialties. Founded in 1888 by German-born immigrant Francis Xavier Matt (FX), the Matt Brewing Company is one of the few remaining great American regional breweries. The brewery hosts behind-the-scenes tours year-round and are home to the Tavern, where patrons can enjoy a pint and socialize.

Munson Williams Proctor Arts Institute – Utica, NY (Oneida County): Tour the main building, permanent collection and rotating exhibit: Roaring into the Future: New York 1925-1935. A renowned art collection, fascinating exhibitions and educational programs for all ages. MWPAI has two buildings – one designed by Philip Johnson and another that is Fountain Elms, an 1850 Italian Revival mansion.

4:00pm (approx.): DoubleTree Hotel Utica – Utica, NY: (FAM TOUR ENDS)

Thank you for your time and we look forward to working with you and your clients in…

CENTRAL NEW YORK

There are people in the Mohawk Valley interested in promoting the history and heritage of the region. At approximately the same time as the familiarization tour the following press release was issued.

Guy Park Manor Restoration Group Forms

A meeting of concerned Amsterdam residents and local historians was held this past Wednesday evening to discuss the rehabilitation and restoration of Guy Park Manor said the committee’s spokesperson Norm Bollen [also of Fort Plain Museum, one of the stops on the tour]. “Guy Park Manor, built is 1766, is Amsterdam’s oldest building”, said Bollen. It deserves to be restored and opened once again to the public as a place to explore our colonial history and promote heritage tourism in our city.

The initiative, spearheaded by the newly formed Mohawk Country, Inc. was attended by trustees of the Historic Amsterdam League, the Amsterdam Daughters of the American Revolution and the Old Fort Johnson Historic Landmark.

 “Heritage tourism is a 5 billion dollar industry in New York”, said Bollen and Montgomery County has more colonial American and Native American heritage sites than anywhere in the upstate New York area. Reopening Guy Park Manor as a heritage tourist attraction will help shape the City of Amsterdam and Montgomery County into a great American Heritage destination. A well thought out destination tourism program is a vital component to any economic development plan. Tourism is your “window” on the area for others to look in on your community and see what your community has to offer.

 Mohawk Country, Inc. represents colonial era historic attractions throughout Montgomery County. Their goal is to promote, protect and preserve the counties historic attractions, and in the process create a new tourism model for Montgomery County. Since the demise of the [state-sponsored] Mohawk Valley Heritage Corridor Commission there has been no agency working to preserve and promote our heritage.

The committee plans to reach out to local politicians for support and petition the state to work with the organization in reopening the historic site to the public. Guy Park Manor was originally operated by New York State Parks & Recreation but was closed over 20 years ago. Reopening the site as a tourist attraction would be good for the city and create a companion attraction to the new Pedestrian Bridge.

For more information on the Mohawk Country initiative email mohawkcountryusa@yahoo.com

The press release touches on many of the issues in previous posts over the years. It identifies a significant problem and the lack of state leadership. No one in I Love NY has history expertise and it is not the job of tourist people to have such knowledge. On the hand, it is I Love NY’s responsibility working through the county TPA and/or through the consultants it hires to reach out to such expertise. This familiarization tour was a rapid “everything including the kitchen sink” smorgasbord of sites and not a thematically-honed tour. It was not specifically intended to highlight the history heritage of the Mohawk Valley. When will it?

History Conferences, Cultural Heritage and Tourism

Mohawk Valley History

Local history organizations in New York State create history conferences. This comparatively unexplored facet to the history community provides examples, lessons, and insight into what is being done and potentially what could be done.

In the past few weeks, I have participated in the third-annual American Revolution Mohawk Valley Conference organized by the Fort Plain Museum and in the Erie Canal 200 Bicentennial Conference organized by the Oneida County History Council and the Canal Society of New York. I should note that during this period I was the recipient of frequent notices about the Peterboro Civil War Weekend the same time as the American Revolution conference. I further note that I have occasionally attended French and Indian War and American Revolution Conferences at Fort Ticonderoga, Underground Railroad Public History Conferences organized by the Underground Railroad History Project of The Capital Region, and baseball conferences in Cooperstown. I exclude from this discussion such annual organization conferences as by APHNYS, MANY, and the NYSHA back when there was a state history conference. I also am referring to multiday events that potentially require lodging by the participants.

As we all know, New York is rich in local, state, American and even world history. Becoming aware of that history and then immersing oneself in it sometimes requires more than a one-hour talk or tour. These history conferences provide a welcome opportunity for diehard aficionados, the educated, the biologically-connected, and local boosters to join together in an intellectual and physical shared experience…in some cases year after year.

Let me review some of the non-content lessons learned from these conferences. By that I mean I am not going to dispense content knowledge about the American Revolution or the Erie Canal, but to share observations about the conference experience.

Lesson #1 – It can be done . Kudos are deserved for the volunteer efforts by the local organizations who undertake the daunting task of organizing a conference. As someone who has organized both day-conferences and week-long Teacherhostels/Historyhostels, I know from personal experience that everything always takes longer than expected or desired and there always is more involved than originally anticipated. I strongly recommend that sessions be held at APHNYS and MANY about the logistical and organizational challenges in putting together such events.  While it may not be possible or advisable to put together to rigid a procedural manual, there are lessons to be learned and benefits to be gained by sharing what is involved. In the meantime I encourage all such conference organizers to submit a post to New York History Blog on what is involved in organizing a conference.

Lesson #2 – Conferences generate revenue.  The Erie Canal conference included 106 registrations including 72 who paid for a conference dinner at a restaurant, 82 who participated in a bus tour, and 86 who paid for a canal cruise.  I don’t have the comparable numbers for the American Revolution conference but registration was in the range of 200 people, there were over 100 people at the conference dinner at a catered meal at an historic site, there were two 55-seat buses on the tour I took.

As an example of the revenue generated, consider my dinner-table companions at the American Revolution conference. Two people from North Carolina and Kansas had flown to New York, rented a car, and stayed in a motel. Two had driven from out-of-state and one from downstate (me) and stayed in a motel (and I know there was travel expense for at least one other – I don’t take notes at the dinner table so some of the details have been forgotten). The net result is that our one table generated more travel revenue than all the local Path through History events since the project was launched on August 28, 2012, have produced.

A few years ago, I think it was in the food court at Empire State Plaza in Albany where I saw Gavin Landry and Ross Levi of I LoveNY, I mentioned the potential of promoting history conferences as way of bringing people to (upstate) New York and generating revenue. As I recall, Ross responded favorably to the suggestion as something that should be done. It is something that should be done. As part of the REDC funding process there should be a bucket for funding history conferences.

Lesson #3 – Conferences create actual paths through history even when they aren’t on a Path through History weekend. At the Erie Canal conference there was a one day bus trip. Admittedly that bus tour was best for real canal buffs but let’s face facts, for almost anything you think of there are bound to be fans. Our local archaeology society in Westchester had a lecture recently on the discovery of the skeleton of King Richard III at a carpark in England. We had people from New Jersey and Philadelphia drive to attend a 45-minute lecture by the excavator. Who knew there was a King Richard III fan club? Thank you William Shakespeare. The point is not everybody is interested in something but there is a segment of the population interested in practically any aspect of New York State history if organized and promoted right. Whose job is it to do that?

As it turns out, one of the presenters at the Erie Canal conference was Dana Krueger, who is an organizer and member of the MANY board. Her presentation showcases what can be done and what isn’t being done. Interest in canals is a worldwide phenomenon. Naturally there is a conference for canal people. This year the World Canal conference will be in Syracuse due to the Erie Canal bicentennial. In her presentation Dana mentioned the various other canal activities besides the conference itself:

  • There is a special one-day early-bird tour on the shipwrecks of Lake Champlain with lodging and travel arrangements from Albany.
  • There is a two-day pre-conference tour on the Champlain and Eastern Erie Canals following immediately upon the special one day early-bird tour with travel and lodging arrangements from Albany.
  • There is the third annual two-day cycling tour of the towpath through the Old Erie Canal State Historic Park which involves lodging and apparently is held independent of the World Canal conference.
  • There is a three-day post conference Erie Canal tour from Syracuse to Buffalo.

 

The World Canal Conference website also mentions the possibility of additional “itineraries” through the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor. That website contains nine “itineraries.”

Don’t these tours and itineraries seem a lot like paths? How come none of these events are even listed on the Path through History website? Is the promotion for these tours limited to people who will attend the conference? Isn’t it possible that people would be interested in such early-bird, pre-conference, and post-conference tours in years when there is no canal conference or by people who are not going to attend the conference in Syracuse this year? Are these one-time tours or the beginning of a sustained repeatable development and promotion of paths through history based on one of the themes of the Path through History project? As one who has attended the Tourism Advisory Council meetings, I can say without hesitation, the World Canal Conference is a separate agenda item treated as a onetime event with no ongoing considerations for upstate tourist travel.

A similar situation occurred with the American Revolution conference. Two tours were offered. One repeated the one I had taken the first year…and was sold out by the time I registered for the conference this year. It focused on sites between exits 27 and 29 in the New York State Thruway depending on whether one was coming from the east or the west. The Exit 27 to 29 history organizations in Montgomery and Fulton counties have created a website call Mohawk Country and produced two brochures. Combined they feature about 20 sites. Individually, they tend not to be destination sites on their own. But these organizations take the collaboration and cooperation mantra seriously. Collectively Montgomery and Fulton counties have created the basis for a Mohawk Valley Path through History. Now what they need is tour operators. Recently Norm Bollen of the Fort Plain Museum addressed the Montgomery County legislators on the value of cultural heritage tourism. For these sites to put together bus tours outside the annual conference would be great achievement. Montgomery and Fulton counties should request the creation of Pathfinder as part of the REDC funding for this year. A little help from the state would be nice.

Finally I would like to share the experience of the annual conference of the Society for Industrial Archaeology held in Albany in 2015. Although it was two years ago, I have been saving the information for the right post and now is the time. Look at the trips this conference sponsored keeping in mind the specialized nature of industrial archaeology.

First there were the all-day trips with lunch and transportation provided

  • Schenectady and vicinity
  • Power and Transportation including the Amtrak and New York State Canals repair shops, the Port of Albany, Erie Canal at Waterford, and the Mechanicville Hydroelectric Plant, built 1897, oldest continuously operating plant in the nation with original equipment in service.
  • Port of Coeymans where sections of the new Tappan Zee Bridge were being assembled; Scarano Boat Building, Port of Albany, builder of passenger ferries, cruise boats, and historic replica vessels; SUNY College of Nanoscale Engineering & Science, Albany, R&D facility for the microchip industry with complete prototyping lines.
  • Hudson-Mohawk Industries in Cohoes, Troy, and Waterford.
  • Bridges, both the manufacturing of them and those that have been built.

 

Participants had the option of choosing only one tour since all five were offered on the same day. One can see that combined, they would create a one-week program based in Albany. Quite obviously the focus of the tours was for specialists but how difficult would it be to create history tours involving Albany, Cohoes, Schenectady, Troy, and Waterford. Actually the problem would be limiting the tour to just five days! I speak from experience having created Capital Region Teacherhostels/Historyhostels and having scouted sites that couldn’t be included even in a week. Somehow the conference organizers were able to put together five one-day tours.

In addition to these tours which were part of the conference price, one also could take

  • day bus trip to Sharon Springs
  • four 1.5 to 2.5 hour tours in Albany during the course of a day
  • day bus tour for Landmarks of the Hudson-Mohawk Region through historic industrial districts of North Albany, Watervliet, Cohoes, Waterford & Troy. One bus returned via Albany Airport for those who need to catch early afternoon flights.

 

How’s that for planning.

I have championed the creation of Pathfinders. These are people who would have the job of doing what these conference organizers have done but with the intention of creating repeatable sustainable tours. It is truly tragic with all tens of millions of dollars expended on touting New York, so little is devoted to building the infrastructure, the actual creation of tours for people to take.  All tourists are just supposed to wing it by surfing the Path through History website to create one-time tours specifically for themselves. Makes you wonder how many people actually use the site to create such self-guided tours before traveling to New York.

History Anniversary Funding

Lockport Erie Canal Locks

There is always an anniversary somewhere. For the state, three come to mind now: the Women’s Suffrage Centennial, World War I Centennial, and the Erie Canal Bicentennial. State funding for anniversaries has been problematic over the years to be polite about it. Each time has been an exercise in reinventing the wheel, seeking out legislative support, lobbying for a pittance, and constantly laboring to scrounge up funds for a threadbare program.

The REDC funding process does not address this problem. There is no history bucket for applicants. No anniversary bucket. The logical source for such funding would be through the State Historian’s Office, a position which has been degraded in recent years and is now making a bit of comeback. A serious problem is that the state historian along with the museum, archives, and library, are all under the jurisdiction of the Board of Regents and therefore not directly under the control of the Governor. The REDC funding buckets are. Could the Governor extend the REDC funding to include them? Could the Regents establish their own funding mechanism to compensate for this shortcoming? Even if they could, who is going to ask them?

In the meantime, the New York Canal System operates independently and does provide funding through the REDC applications. In this post, I examine how it distributes its funds and comment on the lessons to be learned through this anomalous source of history anniversary funding by the State.

Canalway Matching Grant Program (Canals) – up to $1,000,000

The Canalway Grants Program is a competitive matching grant program available to eligible municipalities and 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations along the New York State Canal System. Funding is for capital projects that enhance economic and community development along the canal corridor and are consistent with the goals of the Regional Economic Development Council Plans.

Notice that the description specifically identifies capital projects as being within its purview. As will be seen, awards also can be for marketing and/or developing history-related programs. Below are all of the awards granted by the New York State Canal System in county order.

Albany

City of Cohoes Cohoes Visitor Center
This project will create an engaging Canal exhibit for the Cohoes Visitor’s Center in time for the Erie Canal bicentennial celebration and will feature a model lock and other model machines. The project is part of a larger revitalization effort to support tourism in Cohoes.
Amount: $62,000

This award easily could be part of Marketing NY. One would think all visitor center funding for history exhibits could be done through I LoveNY or through the State Historian.

Erie Canalway Heritage Fund Inc.
Matton Shipyard Structural Preservation Initiative
This project will stabilize three original buildings at the Matton Shipyard in Cohoes at the junction of the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers.
Amount: $148,000 in addition to $182,936 from Marketing New York for an Erie Canal Waterway Trail

In this instance, the applicant was able to leverage funding from two sources, one a capital improvement and the other a tourist award. But as Cohoes shows, the waterway trail could have been funded through New York State Canal System.  Here is an example of where knowing how the system works pays off.

Cayuga/Onondaga

Canal Society of New York State
Erie Canal Bicentennial Exhibition Collaboration
This grant will fund a joint collaboration with the NYS Canal Society and the Erie Canal Museum to do state-wide outreach for the Erie Canal bicentennial through the design and fabrication format that will be utilized throughout the eight years of the bicentennial.
Amount: $39,000

Clearly this award is an anniversary one. One may anticipate eight years of such awards to the applicant. The issue is not the legitimacy of the award but the structure through which history anniversary awards are awarded. Undoubtedly, Women’s Suffrage Centennial which will extend through 2020 would love to have such a secure source of funding.

Niagara

Lockport Locks Heritage District Corporation
Lock Tender Tribute
This grant will fund updates and improvements to the Erie Canal Museum, located at the base of the Flight of Five locks.
Amount: $85,000

Here we see a new wrinkle in the funding process: capital improvement awards based on the historical sector. Imagine a scenario where American Revolution sites applied for funding to one source while immigration museums and municipal historical societies applied to two additional funders. Again, the issues not the merit of any individual application but the dysfunctional structure without a clear source for history organizations.

Oneida

Rome Area Chamber of Commerce
Rome Canal Bicentennial Program
This grant will fund a series of art and culture events to promote the Erie Canal bicentennial in the City of Rome.
Amount: $97,000

The awards of the New York State Council on the Arts but one may observe the overlapping jurisdictions.

Onondaga/Madison

Madison County Signage Plan for the Old Erie Canal State Historic Park
This project will develop and install wayfinding signage within the Old Erie Canal State Historic Park, which spans three counties (Onondaga, Madison, and Oneida) and contains the longest and one of the only remaining portions of the original Erie Canal system.
Amount: $30,000

Schenectady

City of Schenectady
Mohawk Harbor Visitor Center and Large Vessel Dockage
This project will include the construction of a walking trail, visitor’s center with public restrooms and approximately 75 feet of large vessel dockage space.
Amount: $150,000

Seneca

National Womens Hall of Fame
Center for Great Women
This project is phase three of a project that will transform the empty Seneca Knitting Mill into the Center for Great Women – the headquarters of the National Woman’s Hall of Fame. Work will include demolition, construction, interior build-out and site work of the first floor of the Mill, creating 4,200 square feet of habitable space for exhibits.
Amount: $125,000 in addition to the $250,000 from Marketing New York

Obviously this award is a bit of a surprise. Who would expect a grant to renovate a knitting mill into a woman’s hall of fame in the canals category?  And this ignores the additional two grants for another $800,000 from two other funding sources. The four awards refer to “rehabilitation,” “demolition,” “transform” and 4200 square feet of exhibit space. Again the merit of the award is not the issue. Since none of the four awards even mention suffrage, I will address the suffrage awards regardless of funding source in another post.

Steuben

Corning Museum of Glass
New York Waterways GlassBarge
This grant will fund the Corning Museum of Glass’ project to install a mobile glass blowing studio on a Canal barge to provide demonstrations to the general public at waterfront locations along New York’s
waterways.
Amount: $144,000 in addition to $57,830 from Marketing New York

Wayne

Wayne County
Canal Trail Lock 26 Pedestrian Bridge redecking
This grant will provide funding for materials and installation of a former railroad bridge in Wayne County in order to remove the biggest off-road obstacle to extending the Erie Canalway Trail to connect with Seneca and Cayuga Counties.
Amount: $120,000

As one surveys the awards in this category, one observes the lack of clarification in the scope of each funding agent. It would be very easy to move awards from one category into another one. In a sense that is what happens as applicants from around the state and in different regions seek to identify the most likely source for approval of their request. Once again, the merits of individual applications are not the issue. Imagine if all the history-related awards were grouped together and under a single source. Now imagine a request for that exact sum of money which has been awarded through scattered funding sources was now under the label of history funding. The outcry would be ferocious. Instead we make do a procrustean bed funding process.

 

I picked the etching because I preferred its historical look to a photograph of the canal today. The drawing comes from  ClipArt ETC.  The source is Benson John Lossing, ed. Harper’s Encyclopedia of United States History (vol. 3) (New York, NY: Harper and Brothers, 1912). It looks like it is a drawing of the locks at Lockport. For a photograph, see Low Bridge Productions.

Path Through History: An Historical Perspective

The Path though History project does not operate on a tabula rasa. When Henry Hudson arrived, there were no signs to guide him. Today there are more signs then one can count. For Path through History the challenge is not to create ex nihilo but to create order out of chaos. Continue reading “Path Through History: An Historical Perspective”

Irene and New York State History

This past July, a group of educators toured the historic Mohawk Valley. The group consisted of teachers from the region, particularly the Utica school district, people from historical societies, and cultural heritage tourists. The program was described as an “immersion experience”into the history of the Mohawk Valley. Little did we know that the metaphorical image soon would become a literal one. Continue reading “Irene and New York State History”