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Upcoming History Advocacy, Conferences and Events

George Washington Leading People to the First New York State History Conference

The start of the new year means the start of a series of annual advocacy, conferences, and events related to history in New York State. Some of these events target specific areas within the history community such as preservation, museums, and tourism. Since there is no New York State history advocacy day or conference by itself, it can only be addressed piecemeal. The examination of what is being done illustrates what needs to be done if the history community is to have a voice in Albany.

February 5: Preservation Advocacy Day (Legislative Office Building, Albany)

The Preservation League of New York State has an office and staff located in Albany. It has been in operation since 1974. This will be my first time participating in this advocacy day.

Join the Preservation League of New York State as we make our Voices of Preservation heard at the New York State Capitol – so our past has a future!

​8:30 a.m.  Program begins (LOB room 104-A). Refreshments provided.
Welcome:               Jay DiLorenzo, President, Preservation League
Brief Remarks:     Senator Timothy Kennedy
Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner
Assemblymember Patricia Fahy
Assemblymember John McDonald
Daniel Mackay, Deputy Commissioner for Historic Preservation, OPRHP
Legislative Brief:   Erin Tobin, Vice President for Policy & Preservation

9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Meet with Senators/Members of Assembly or their staff.

2019 Advocacy Priorities:
Direct Transfer of historic tax credits
Increased tax credit for small projects
Qualifying cities to use tax credit
Vacant Buildings
Urger Advocacy

12:30 p.m.-2:00 p.m. Lunch provided & opportunity to share how the meetings went.

February 6 Monuments of the Future? Alternative Approaches (The Graduate Center, CUNY, New York)

Looking for solutions to the dilemma about how to confront and constructively address ‘difficult’ places of memory and, in some cases, their absence, this panel presentation will offer real and virtual alternative approaches that use different media to promote a public dialogue about how and what we remember. The speakers represent projects and institutions that encompass local and national efforts, providing possible models as well as obstacles to public education and participation in New York City.

The final panel in the ‘Difficult Histories’ series co-presented with the American Social History Project and the Public History Collective at The Graduate Center, with funding provided by Humanities New York

I attended a previous evening conference on this topic in the fall. My reporting on that event in a blog is past due. If I am able to attend this one I will try to combine the two conferences. The issue of monuments may not apply to every community in New York but it is an issue of both historic preservation and history memory. What does each community decide to commemorate and what not to commemorate and why.

February 16 George Washington’s Birthday Symposium (Fulton-Montgomery Community College, Johnstown)

The Fort Plain Museum has been conducting annual conferences including bus tours on the American Revolution in the Mohawk Valley for several years. I think I have attended three of them as well as had a teacher program on the topic which is when I first became aware of the Fort Plain Museum. This small volunteer organization has been working tirelessly to promote not just the story of the American Revolution but history tourism in the Mohawk Valley.

This inaugural event starts at 8:15 am and will end at 3:30 pm. Admission fees are $35 for advance registration, $40 at the door and there is a discounted rate for students of $20. The admission fee includes a lunch sandwich buffet and refreshment breaks. There will be an author book signing with books available for purchase.

Edward G. Lengel, “Setting the Example: George Washington’s Military Leadership”
Bruce Chadwick, “George & Martha”
William Larry Kidder, “George Washington’s Ten Crucial Days: Trenton and Princeton”
Norman J. Bollen, “George Washington and the Mohawk Frontier”

To register, send an email to fortplainmuseum@yahoo.com with your name, phone number, email address, city and state. A check can be made out to and sent to the Fort Plain Museum, Attn: GW BDAY, PO Box 324, Fort Plain, NY 13339. It also accept credit cards by phone, 518-774-5669 (if no answer, please leave a message). Visit www.fortplainmuseum.com for details.

March 2 Historic Districts Council Preservation Conference (Manhattan)

The Historic Districts Council (HDC) is the advocate for all of New York City’s historic neighborhoods. Its mission is to ensure the preservation of significant historic neighborhoods, buildings and public spaces in New York City, to uphold the integrity of New York City’s Landmarks Law, and to further the preservation ethic.

HDC has a staff and office in Manhattan and has been in operation since 1970. I do not know what its exact working relationship is with the Preservation League of New York State is. As you may suspect, there are a number of preservation organizations throughout the state. I do maintain a separate email distribution list for them as best I can and do not distribute all my history blogs to that list. By coincidence, in the state preservation advocacy day on February 5, I have been assigned to the New York City pool. That means I will be part of the group meeting with the New York City legislators. HDC tends to focus on NYC Council members and the local landmark commission.

This day-long (9:30-3:30) conference will dive into a range of topics and of-the-moment campaigns to preserve communities and sites throughout the city, with sessions led by the participants themselves, as well as two planned panels, on engaging people with new sites in old ways, and positive and negative rezoning experiences. Participant-led sessions means people put up a signup sheet on a bulletin board and attendees sign up for the sessions that interest them.

Old Places, New Faces: Innovative Means of Engaging the Public with Historic Sites

Mathew Coody, Historic House Trust – Moderator
Lisa Alpert, Greenwood Cemetery
John Boulware, South Street Seaport Museum
Dylan Thuras, Atlas Obscura

Zoning, for Better or for Worse: How Rezonings have Negatively and Positively Affected Communities

Andrew Berman, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation – Moderator
Chris Cirillo, East Harlem
Ethel Tyus, Crown Heights

The conference will be held at, 185 West Broadway, New York. You can register here.

I attended last year and wrote a blog about it.

March 4 Park Advocacy Day (Empire State Plaza, Albany)

Parks & Trails is another advocacy group with staff and an office in Albany. Its focus is on the New York States Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (NYSOPRHP). Its advocacy is almost exclusively on the parks, both scenic and recreational, and not on the historic sites operated by NYSOPRHP or historic preservation. I have seen NYSOPRHP at historic preservation conferences. By attending the preservation and parks advocacy days one month apart I will have an opportunity to see if history and historic preservation are represented in any of the presentations or advocacy efforts. In my next blog I will be reporting on NYSOPRHP REDC awards for 2018.

Join Parks & Trails New York and the Open Space Institute’s Alliance for New York State

Parks Program in Albany help send a message of support for New York’s state parks and historic sites! As a park advocate, you’ll join other park supporters from across the state and meet with policymakers to stress the importance of supporting funding for state parks. Your efforts will impact legislators as they make important decisions about parks.

9:30 – 9:45      Hart Theatre Lounge The Egg Center for Performing Arts Empire State Plaza
9:45 – 11:00    Welcome, Orientation & Invited Speakers
11:00 – 11:45  Lunch (provided)
11:45 – 12:00  Meet Your Team (organized by NYSOPRHP regions so I am in the Taconic)
12:30 – 4:00    Appointments with Policymakers

I notice that Preservation League of New York State has a debriefing session for the entire group at the end of day whereas Parks & Trails does not.

For more info and to register contact: Sarah Braymer: 518-434-1583 | sbraymer@ptny.org.

March 7-9 New York State Council for the Social Studies (Albany)

The annual conference of social studies teachers and supervisors will be held in Albany. A detailed schedule is not available on the website at this time. I suspect local and state history will not have a significant presence at the conference. Even though history organizations are chartered through the Education Department and both schools and museums are part of the Regents bailiwick, this is one area where silos defines the arrangement. If New York promoted local and state history, then the state conference and various regional social studies conferences would be logical venues for history organizations to present and have display tables. But that is not the way of the real world and there is no state history organization advocating that it should be.

March 12 Tourism Action Day (Renaissance Albany Hotel, Albany)

The New York State Hospitality & Tourism Association (NYSHTA) is the oldest state lodging association in the country. Founded in 1887 in Saratoga Springs, NYSHTA originally represented New York State’s lodging industry. Today the association includes members from nearly all segments of the tourism industry. NYSHTA represents more than 1,100 members including hotels, motels, resorts, conference centers, country inns, bed & breakfast establishments, reservation service organizations, amusement parks, attractions, museums, ski areas, recreational facilities, historical sites, convention and visitor bureaus, chambers of commerce, colleges and universities, hospitality students and suppliers to the industry.

Bring your voice to Albany on March 12th to educate your legislators on the importance of tourism to the state’s economy. Tourism is a priority for our state, show the Legislature it’s your priority too. Come and tell your elected officials you need their support both statewide and at the local level.

Breakfast Buffet Meeting from 8:30-10:00 AM at the Renaissance Albany Hotel with Legislative
Legislative meeting for all attendees will be arranged by NYSHTA.

This represents a change. In the past, individual participants were on their own to arrange meetings with state legislators. The first time I attended I did not know that so I had to scramble. Fortunately I was able to meet the same people I had just met with on the Parks & Trail advocacy day. It always is prior to the tourism one. I learned to make an appointment for Tourism Day as I left the meeting for Parks Advocacy Day. This year I will not have to.

This advocacy day charges a fee to participate whereas the other ones do not. You can register here.

I should also add that based on previous meetings I have attended as well as the Tourism Advisory Council meetings I have attended, history tourism is not a priority.

April 7-9 Access & Identity (Museum Association of New York, Cooperstown)

The Museum Association of New York strengthens the capacity of New York State’s cultural community by supporting professional standards and organizational development. It provides advocacy, training, and networking opportunities so that museums and museum professionals may better serve their missions and communities.

MANY is located in Troy, not far from Albany, and has a staff. It has an annual conference held in different regions throughout the state. It has a lobbyist and used to have conference telephone calls with the lobbyist on what is going on. It does participate in a federal advocacy program in Washington each February along with museum organizations from around the country. To the best of my knowledge it does not have a museum advocacy day in Albany as the parks, preservation, and tourism sectors do.

The annual conference is a multiday event with concurrent sessions reflecting the different interests of the museum community. Although MANY does serve art museums, science museums, zoos, and aquariums, the presentations tend to by history organizations and museums. The registration fee will be a couple of hundred dollars and the early registration period ends February 22. Since it is multiday conference, there is likely to be lodging expense unless you have to live in the area. Typically, I attend this conference.

To register go to MANY

TBD Conference on New York State History

The image for this post comes from the Facebook page of the Conference on New York State History. According to the Facebook page:

New York State Historical Association, the most recent sponsor of the Conference on New York State History, is defunct as of March 14, 2017. See http://www.nyhistory.net

The Conference on New York State History has a history of its own. People began meeting informally in the 1890s and the New York State Historical Association was an outgrowth of the Conference of 1899 at Lake George. For many years the annual Conference and the annual meeting of NYSHA coincided, but by the 1950s the annual meeting of NYSHA no longer contained much historical content and the “College Conference” first met as an independent group in Cooperstown in 1957. The College Conference met annually, with the Office of State History (defunct 1977) as lead sponsor. The last College Conference was held at Syracuse University in 1978.

The Conference began a new series in April of 1980 at SUNY Binghamton. Stefan Bielinski of the NYS Museum coordinated the Conference through 2002, when the Conference continued with Field Horne coordinating. Mr. Horne secured partnerships with the former NYSHA, The Archives Partnership Trust, and Humanities New York (was New York Humanities Council), with NYSHA taking the lead in 2012. After the 2012 Conference at Niagara University, NYSHA attempted to coordinate the Conference but this failed by 2016, when a joint Researching New York – Conference on NYS History meeting was held at the University at Albany (SUNY Albany).

Plans for the future are unclear.

The events chosen for this post are state and regional oriented. It focuses in particular on the advocacy days in Albany which occur annually in February and March. Perhaps one day there will be a New York State history advocacy day. Perhaps one day there will be a New York State history organization. Perhaps one day there will be a Conference on New York State History. Perhaps one day hell will freeze over just as it has outside today

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.

Schumer and Gibson on New York State History

Senator Chuck Schumer, Congressman Chris Gibson, and Governor Andrew Cuomo have all been in the news recently on the subject of history tourism. It is instructive to compare and contrast their involvement in the subject.

On July 1, Senator Schumer visited the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill, Greene County. The site is a privately operated. The cause of the visit was the unexpected discovery what appears to be original paintings from around 1836 by Thomas Cole which had been hidden under layers of paint. Schumer was contacted about federal funding to preserve the art. He not only supports the request, but also toured the site with executive director Betsy Jacks. Continue reading “Schumer and Gibson on New York State History”