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The NPS Imperiled Promise: Recommendations to Eliminate the Peril – Is Anybody Listening? (Part III)

After all the surveying and analysis as described in two previous posts, the authors of the study Imperiled Promise: The State of History in the National Park Service turned to the recommendations to alleviate the situation. As one might expect they called for the NPS to recommit to history as one of its core purposes and to adhere to the “best available sound history scholarship as a standard of quality for the NPS history.

They proposed 12 approaches to historical research to be discussed nationwide throughout the NPS.

  1. Expand interpretive frames beyond existing physical resources

Any physical site including its physical resources is only a remnant of a disappeared past. Furthermore historical research may uncover stories not directly represented among the physical objects which by chance happened to have survive. Tell the big story.

  1. Emphasize connections of parks with the larger histories beyond their boundaries

No site is an isolated island whose stories are limited to the physical space set aside by law. Learn the connections and include them in the story of your site. I will add that tourists may already make such connections in their itineraries whereby they visit multiple locations during their vacation.

  1. Highlight the effects of human activity on “natural” areas

Integrate nature and culture. Natural areas or landscapes may have been shaped by human activity. I will add that representations of natural areas also may obscure the human activity which shaped. Human activity shaping the landscape did not begin with European settlers. Leave the two-dimensional clichés to Disney. Tell the stories of real people.

  1. Acknowledge that history is dynamic and always unfinished

For example the male white (English) Harvard New England historians of the 19th century tended to privilege the role in the American Revolution of male white New Englanders in their writings and scholarship. Both New York and the South were shortchanged as well as other ethnicities, races, and genders. In another example, ten years ago how many high school students had even heard of Hamilton? The more people want to be part of the story of the American Revolution, the stronger the United States becomes. I don’t know if every immigrant to England, France, and Germany connects with William the Conqueror (or King Arthur), Charlemagne (or Napoleon), Frederick the Great (or Bismarck), but every American can connect with some figure in the American Revolution. History grows when it is alive and part of our journey as a country.

  1. Recognize the NPS’s role in shaping every park’s history

Those who tell the story become part of the story because of what they choose to tell. I will add, should every guide at a single site tell the same story? Given that not everything can be communicated in a single tour, why should every tour be the same? The visitors too have different interests. For example as part of two conferences, I recently visited the Oriskany Battlefield twice. We had the same NPS Ranger guide. For the American Revolution in the Mohawk Valley conference, he spoke about the battle; for the Erie Canal Bicentennial conference, he spoke about the stones from the nearby canal being used to construction the monuments at the battle site. Let’s recognize the different aspects of the story at a site and allow visitors to have some control over what they will experience.

  1. Attend to the role of memory and memorialization at historical sites.

“Rather than freezing an event depicted at a park or site as something that happened in the past, history interpreters should acknowledge and investigate the diverse and changing ways (and reasons) that people have remembered and assigned significance to that event or place (up to and since the when the park itself was designated “historic”). I will add, fossils (of dinosaurs) do have an appeal, but an immersion into history provides a more vibrant memory for the visitor.

  1. Highlight the open-endedness of the past

“Rather than cloaking historical outcomes with a gloss of inevitability, history interpreters might pry open past events to reveal the many viable alternatives a multitude of past actors faced as they struggled to solve actions, take actions, and frame horizons.” I will add, suppose William Johnson had lived throughout the American Revolution instead of dying in 1774? Suppose slavery had been the deal-breaker that prevented the United States from constituting itself as a country in 1787, then what?

  1. Forthrightly address conflict and controversy both in, and about, the past

Scholars disagree. Do visitors know that? For the NPS with its many Civil War sites, this admonition can be a real challenge especially with all the talk today about memorials, statues, and street names.

  1. Welcome contested and evolving understandings of American civic heritage

This recommendation seems like a variation of the previous one. The civic aspect is crucial.

  1. Envision “doing history” as means of skills development for civic participation

Tours tend to teach details not skills. Tours tend to provide small-bore facts that are quickly forgotten. Quick, which painting is of the second son of the patriarch and what is name of the woman he married on the painting next to him? As I worked my way through this list of recommendations, I realized, as you readers may have, that many of these recommendations are more suitable for a classroom, i.e., an air-conditioned setting where people are sitting down for up to 30-45 minutes as in a public lecture, than to an outdoor or non-airconditioned indoor setting where people are standing and on the move. Perhaps it should be no surprise that the consultants, professors obtained through the auspices of the Organization of American History, would tend to recommend replicating the ideal classroom setting without taking into account the practicalities of the visitor logistics and expectations.

  1. Share authority with and take knowledge from the public

Again this recommendation seems like a variation on a theme and one more appropriate to the classroom than the guided tour. If these conversations are to occur in an academic setting such as a ranger attending a history conference, then such exchanges are worthwhile and one of the purposes of a history conference. If these conversations are to occur during a guided tour then it seems more reminiscent of having a discussion with a loudmouth know-it-all who could dominate the tour if left unchecked.  Exactly what are the venues where these conversations with the public are supposed to occur? Typically guided tours are not conducive to such exchanges with the general public but can work with a controlled group such as teachers.

  1. Better connect with the rest of the history profession and embrace interdisciplinary collaboration

By this the authors specifically mean NPS historians should have ongoing relationships with public history sites, academia, and k-12 education. I interpret this to mean in part attending the national and state history conferences of various organizations, attending the history conferences about related subjects, attending social studies conferences.

 

Collectively, these recommendations certainly present a positive vision of history at history sites. My questions and concerns are where the rubber hits the road. Exactly how are these recommendations to be implemented? What do they really mean on the frontlines where the worlds of the tourist visitor and the Park Ranger intersect? Since historic sites are not cookie cutter facilities, what do they mean in the different settings? How are Park Rangers to be trained to do what the recommendations suggest?

Ironically, the tourist visitor already has implemented some of these recommendations. When tourists plan a vacation trip, they select the places they intend to visit. In other words, they are positioning an historic site within a host of places in their one-week vacation. In so doing, they are making connections to other venues, not all necessarily historic, as they schedule their trip.

Sometimes the geographic range of the associated sites to a NPS historic site may be quite extensive. Think of the Civil War battlefields as the most obvious. Sites also may be connected to state, county, local, and private sites as well in the event covered or the person/people who lived at the NPS site. This means cooperating and collaborating both within the NPS especially across thematic lines and with external organizations. Is there a mechanism to do that?

There are a wide range of facilitates within the NPS umbrella. Some would find it easier to comply with these suggestions than others. For example in New York, there is a giant FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt complex in Hyde Park including grounds, multiple structures, a presidential library, and a visitor center thanks in part to Friends with Benefits. I have conducted week-long Teacherhostel/Historyhostel at the site combing NPS and non-NPS presenters, tours, and walks. People can spend a day there on their own and the site has its own cafeteria. This site has the size to implement the recommendations if it hasn’t done so.

On the other hand, there is nearby St. Paul’s Church, scrunched into a now-commercial area in Mount Vernon. The site is owned by the NPS but operated by a private group. Its friends group doesn’t begin to compare to that of the Roosevelts. It lacks the space of the larger Roosevelt site. Its lectures are in the unairconditioned church itself where we sit in the colonial church pews. Quite a different experience. Although I park often by Grant’s Tomb by the Hudson River near Riverside Church in Manhattan, its setting in a plaza makes it a stop on the gazillions of bus tours “doing Manhattan.” It really is a tomb. People take their pictures and then it is on to the next non-NPS site which has nothing to do with Grant. How should these sites implement the recommendations?

Before continuing to exam Imperiled Promise, I suggest certain actions to be taken which would benefit not only the NPS but the history community in general.

1. Workshops on recommendations of Imperiled Promise to be held in the primary NPS areas in New York such as New York City, Hyde Park, Saratoga, and Rome.

2. The workshops to be open to non-NPS sites including the NYSOPRHP sites. As an example, the NPS has a site at Fort Stanwix in Rome, it operates the aforementioned Battle of Oriskany site for the NYSOPRHP which owns it. NYSOPRHP also owns and operates nearby the home of the commander of the American force, Palatine General Herkimer (but without a site manager). Then there are related non-government sites like Herkimer’s Church and the Shako:Wi Cultural Center of the Oneida who supported the American side in this America Revolution battle. The division of the Haudenosaunee into competing sides for one tribe fought another had lasting effects to this very day. Look how much is missed if only one site is visited or if the separate sites do not function together.

Imperiled Promise isn’t only a wakeup call to the NPS to get its history act together, it’s a call to the entire history community. Is anybody listening?

Imperiled Promise: History and the NPS (and OPRHP)

Imperiled Promise: The State of History in the National Park Service is the title of a study commissioned by the NPS in partnership with the Organization of American History (OAH). Although first published in 2011, it was slow to see the light of day. In 2014, it was the subject of a pre-New York State History Conference workshop which I attended and wrote about during the NPS Centennial in 2016. I had intended to delve more deeply into the report itself which I downloaded but never quite got around to writing about it. In this post I wish to begin to address the findings of the study. As you will see, the comments are doubly important for New York State:

1. We have many NPS sites in the state
2. The issues raised frequently apply to state historic sites as well.

The findings also are related to the fledgling Massachusetts History Alliance’s efforts to forge exactly what the name says, a history alliance in Massachusetts. I recently attended its conference held at Holy Cross and will reporting on those developments in future posts.  There is a lot going on and it is difficult to keep up.

According to the Executive Summary of Imperiled Promise, history is at the heart of approximately two thirds of nearly four hundred national park units. At the time of the report, 182 NPS employees carried the job title of “Historian.”  However, the authors pointed out that people without the classification may do history-related work as well. I don’t know what the comparable figures are for the NYSOPRHP.

The attendance of the sites is part of the story. By way of perspective, a local news report in 2016 provided the following NPS attendance figures for 2015 in Dutchess County:

Vanderbilt Mansion drew 431, 961 visitors ranking 133rd of 368 NPS destinations but 6th for National Historic Sites. By comparison the White House had 526, 623 visitors.  Other NPS sites in Dutchess include, FDR ranked 11th and the related Val-Kill ranked 26th.  All these sites were outdrawn by Walkway over the Hudson, a state site with 448, 719 and some by the Dutchess County Fair with 394,422.

These numbers can be deceiving especially in a PowerPoint presentation. Vanderbilt Mansion on the Hudson River serves a community park much like Central Park. It is a lovely setting for painting, photography, dog-walking, jogging, and other park activities that just happen to occur on land which has an historic mansion. Similarly the Walkway over the Hudson River is another spectacular recreation setting. By and large both sites with free grounds access are day trips if not after-work visits. By comparison, the Grand Canyon drew an estimated 5.5 million people the same year. Besides the admission fees, people who visit it spend money on meals, souvenirs, lodging, and transportation. Attendance numbers need to be treated very carefully depending on what one is trying to prove or demonstrate. They also highlight a divide noted in the report between the recreational and historical sites managed by the same organization. As I recall at a preservation conference in 2016, even NYSOPRHP joked about the number of historical versus recreation sites under its umbrella. Obviously in New York, Jones Beach and Niagara Falls will outdrew any traditional historical site and that does affect the allocation of funding and management time.

Returning to the Executive Summary, the following observation bears notice. I know that my blogs can be very pointed but pay attention to what was reported in this NPS-commissioned study:

“[The NPS’s mission] has been imperiled by the agency’s weak support for its history workforce, by agency structures that confine history in isolated silos, by longstanding funding deficiencies, by often narrow and static conceptions of history’s scope, and by timid interpretation.”

Not exactly subtle or complimentary. Do these conditions apply at all at the state level as well?

Naturally, the authors of the study have recommendations to remedy the situation. The issue of whether or not these recommendations were implemented or whether the report was filed on the consultant reports  shelf as one NPS Ranger delicately phrased it will be deferred until after they are presented.

The first recommendation required a commitment by the NPS to history as one of its core purposes. That commitment required the NPS to “invest” which has the implication that at some point money is required to do what the report recommends is needed to be done. The investment should be for:

1. creating a robust place-based visitor engagement with history
2. connecting the history of the site to the histories beyond the boundaries of the site
3. forthrightly addressing conflict and controversy in history and its interpretation in the present.

To achieve this vision, the NPS would be obligated to overcome the legacies that undermined the effort.  The negative legacies included:

1. underemphasis and underfunding of historical work
2. artificial separation of cultural resources management from interpretation
3. artificial separation of natural resources interpretation from cultural and historical interpretation
4. overemphasis on mandated compliance activities
5. a misperception of history as a tightly-bounded fixed and accurate story instead of being an ongoing process of discovery with changing narratives and multiple perspectives.

To address these concerns, the authors proposed almost 100 recommendations (which I will not list).  They involve the management, workforce development, and funding. In general terms, one may say there is an issue of the “historian” function at an historic site. What is the training necessary to become an historian? How does one maintain competence in the field or engage with ongoing scholarship to remain current? Are there organizational meetings devoted to history that staff at historic sites should attend? How can existing state and regional organizations support history in addition to curating and exhibit presentation? Would some kind of history certification process be beneficial such as teachers have using professional development to increase their salary? How relevant is all this for the local often volunteer municipal historical society and museum?

Two items in the Executive Summary recommendations bear special notice. They both involve bringing together and creating an empowered leadership. The authors of Imperiled Promise challenge the NPS to create two groups:

1. History Leadership Council, an internal group comprised of the most talented and influential historians and interpreters
2. History Advisory Board, an external-based group comprising the nation’s leading public history professionals, innovative curators, insightful scholars, savvy administrators.

The authors felt that if such groups were formed with legitimate leadership and authority from the NPS, the other challenges could be overcome. In-other-words, they proposed a top-down solution that would gradually impact the grassroots level at the individual sites. Care to guess what actually has happened?

In any event, one can readily observe that similar considerations apply at the state level as well. One may even add that historic sites are owned and operated not just by the states but by counties, cities, towns, villages, and privately.  As it turns out, all history organizations in the state would benefit if some of the recommendations were opened up to extended beyond the NPS itself. In future posts, I will explore in more detail what the Imperiled Promise report specifically recommended and provide some examples of what the NPS in New York actually is doing.

What Are History Societies Doing and What Can the Regents and Governor Do to Help Them?

George Bailey Contemplating an Alternative Reality

Courtesy of Wikipedia

If a tree falls in the woods and no one sees it, has anything happened? If an historical society does something and no other history society knows about it, has anything happened? I am not referring to the lectures, tours, and exhibits which history museums and societies routinely do. Instead I am referring to something a little out of the ordinary, the kind of item one might present at an APHNYS or MANY conference.

The dissemination of ideas is difficult. There is no easy way to accomplish the task. Certainly notices can be published and distributed. The reality is many municipal historians are not members of APHNYS and APHNYS does not have a way of advising its members of best practices or innovative ideas. The same is true for history organizations and MANY. Even if one does present at the annual conference, only some of the members attend and even fewer attend an individual session because there are concurrent sessions. So there is no easy way to share original ideas or actions that go above and beyond the call.

Since I read New York History Blog, I read about many events in the state including ones I cannot possibly attend. For me to go to upstate for a single lecture, tour, or exhibit is a misuse of my time. However, I do attend various conferences and will be reporting on some of them.  Since I distribute my own blog, I also am the recipient of newsletters from history organizations. Sometimes they arrive as enewsletters, sometimes as emails, sometimes as Word or PDF attachments, and sometimes by mail. By no means do these notices cover the state, but they do provide a window into what’s going on out there.  In this post, I would like to share some items that I consider to be a bit unusual and worthy of attention. This is not a scientific survey nor is it comprehensive. It’s just some excerpts from the random notices I have come across.

Greece Historical Society

The annual report for 2016 of the society states:

The all volunteer Society’s purpose is to collect, preserve, research and share local history with the community. We strive to provide the community with an awareness of the past, an appreciation of the present, and a vision for the future, giving a sense of “roots” and a greater feeling of belonging.

Clearly this society operates under the Tonko vision of local history and not the Cuomo one. I suspect pretty much every local society has in its mission statement and/or annual report something similar to what the Greece Historical Society has.  If that’s the mission, then shouldn’t tax dollars be aimed at helping it fulfill that mission rather than to call for the Greece Historical Society to become a tourist destination site for busloads of Chinese?

The Society reports that it held eight monthly Tuesday evening lectures featuring local historians, authors, and humanities scholars in 2016 averaging 85 guests per evening. While no individual lecture deserves mention in this post the cumulative effect of lecture programs does. These numbers mean a total of 680 people participated in the lecture programs of this one society. What would the state-wide total be? Does anyone have any idea how many residents and visitors from nearby communities both individually and through repeat attendance are connecting to local history through lecture programs?  I recall one dark and cold February night attending a lecture at the Mabee Farm location of the Schenectady Historical Society where I could just barely find a parking space since well over 100 people were there (I was on my to a conference starting the next day so I was able to attend. I did not drive from Westchester just for it!). Did I mention it was a dark cold night in February? With snow on the ground? At a site not on a main well-lit road but on a narrow dark one? It’s not quite, if you offer it they will come, but overall I would say there is little appreciation or even awareness for the numbers of people who collectively attend lectures through their local history societies. Remember the Lyceums? There still are buildings with that name in many communities. Remember Chautauqua and the circuit Chautauquas that barnstormed the country like baseball teams and circuses use to do. Not everyone is trapped by their electronic devices. Sometimes people like to be with other people in a social and intellectually stimulating setting that reaffirms community identity.

Lock 52 Historical Society of Port Byron

In response to the post New Approaches for Historical Societies and History Museums by Bruce Dearstyne on March 21, 2017 for New York History Blog, Mike Riley, the president of the Lock 52 Historical Society of Port Byron, expressed the concerns of history societies throughout the state.  He specifically referred to suggestions made in the post about what history societies can do.

(T)here is the realization that with 8 volunteers who average in age of 75 to 90, it is unlikely that any (of the suggestions in the post) will be adopted. We are in a slow death spiral to the day when we close the doors for good. We can look back and say that all these good folks started helping the society when they were in their 30’s to 50’s, and they remain as the foundation for anything we do. There are no new 30, 40 or 50 year old’s taking their place. And as the folks age and pass, the open hours get cut, or the displays don’t get changed. It becomes a fight for life, attracting visitors almost becomes secondary, which of course harms us greatly, I really don’t know if there is an answer. As a society we just don’t value these civic engagement activities as we use to. I know I am not alone. I am in a race to digitize photos and get them out there on the web so at least if the Society closes, some of the history will be saved and available to people. 

Clearly Riley belongs to the Tonko side of the vision of local history as an essential component of the social fabric on the community. Clearly also that fabric is fraying. There is a need to rethink the standard history society model especially as it relates to the large number of small municipalities throughout the state. It is time for some new thinking about the position of the municipal historian, the municipal history society, the local library, and teacher training and the school curriculum and their intertwining. Here is where the history community really needs leadership from the Regents and the Commissioner of Education. 

Putnam County Historian (technically not a history society)

The historian’s office held a free digital scanning initiative to secure military memories of the past for future generations. Local families with military memorabilia are invited to make appointments through the County Historian’s Office to have old letters, documents, photographs and assorted military memorabilia scanned and recorded on a memory device such as a USB or burned to a disk, free of charge. Being the repository for the memory of a community, doesn’t simply mean waiting around for people to dump things in your lap. It is legal to be proactive. In fact, if the regulations for municipal historians are ever rewritten, I would include a requirement to be proactive. How many people would want the job then?

Warwick Historical Society

Once upon a time back in 2013, a group of 4th graders were digging behind one of the historical houses of the Warwick Historical Society. This time besides the usual bits and pieces of commonplace objects, they struck paydirt, a decorated brick. As the work continued in 2014 with two ‘archaeologists,’ average age 76, unearthed the wall of home of “Rocking Chair Benny Sayre.” Sayre (1865 to 1940), the keeper of Baird’s Tavern across the street. George Knight, one of the excavators also was busy cleaning up his own grounds. One type of item frequently found was small bottles.  “Warwick back in the day was higher than a kite,” said Knight. So it seems. These little bottles were considered medicine that, not unlike today’s Oxycontin, turned out to have a serious drawback. “We had a substance abuse problem here over 100 years ago,” said Warwick town historian Richard Hull. “In the 1890s up until World War I, there’d be itinerant merchants who’d come into town to sell elixirs to relieve pain, headaches, relieve depression and so forth. They spiked these concoctions, so that when they sold them people became quite addicted in some cases,” he said. The Women’s Temperance League may have been a response not only to alcohol abuse, but also to these un-talked-of habits. Everyone likes to ogle the opium bottles. They’re scintillating in a way that stone walls just aren’t. That bugs Knight, although he’s good natured about it.

The historic society wasn’t always this go-go-go. “As you can imagine, it was very dry,” said President Mark Kurtz, who stopped by the dig. “There’s become excitement, with the kids that visit.” Every fourth grader in the Warwick school district takes a tour every year, and the middle school just launched a Sustainable Architecture class that will be taking a field trip to the historic society’s properties.  “We’re starting a bunch of brand new reach outs to the school district,” he said. “The point is to make this history become important to people, and that’s the time to reach them.” Lisa-Ann Weisbrod, the society’s new director, said, “It’s amazing how much is going on. It’s a historical society. How busy can it be? It’s crazy.”

This report from the society’s website entitled What’s under Warwick highlights several important developments

  1. the creation of a monthly enewsletter by the Orange County historian Johanna Yuan reporting on the activities in the county, something all county historians should have to do as part of the job.
  2. the outreach to the schools in a literally hands-on experience – which will not stop at 4th grade as the junior archaeologists track the project through the duration of their k-12 education (and then become members of the historical society as adults)
  3. the funding issues the Society experienced for support of the dig versus stabilizing a building
  4. the unusual nature of the Society which owns multiple buildings and is creating the equivalent of an historic district for the residents of the community to experience.

Chalk up another one for the Tonko vision over the Cuomo vision.

White Plains Historical Society

The society compiled a list of 20 streets named after American Revolution figures. I write about the importance of a sense of place as an essential component to the health of the community. One way to foster a connection between residents and their own municipality is to know not simply the name of the streets of the community but the reason for the name of the streets. While the naming of streets after military (and political) heroes might seem obvious, it also is true the residents of communities today don’t know the why streets and buildings have the names they have or why statues were erected (unless Confederate). History societies have the opportunity to engage the public in “Why that name?” Even numerically named streets or tree-named streets are cultural clues to the thinking of the people who named them. The grid in Manhattan is the most famous example but smaller versions exist in many communities. It is not just coincidence that there are a lot Maple, Elm, and Walnut streets either. We can learn about our past by understanding the names that were bequeathed to the organization of space.

 

As I mentioned at the onset, these examples aren’t meant to be comprehensive or inclusive. Nonetheless they represent a good cross section of the trials and tribulations on the history community at the grass roots level and the exemplary efforts by volunteers. A little help would be nice.

My Birthday and the Day I Was Born Are the Same Day: Previewing the 2020 Election (Part 1)

Lincoln Memorial Courtesy GalleryHip

Once upon a time more years ago than I care to count, my sister had an epiphany. Suddenly discrete data packets in her brain coalesced into a vision of breathless clarity and intense emotion. She was effused with the joy and happiness that only one who has seen the truth possesses. Overcome with the intensity of the experience she stood up and proudly exclaimed:

I JUST REALIZED THAT MY BIRTHDAY AND THE DAY I WAS BORN ARE THE SAME DAY!

For all she knew, she was the one and only person on the planet who had attained such knowledge.

How old do you think she was when she had this moment of understanding?

I was reminded of this bit of family lore when our immature child President announced to the world that in the eighth decade of his life, he had suddenly learned that Abraham Lincoln had been a Republican…and that not many people knew that. He apparently was quite proud of himself for now being the possessor of such obscure but important knowledge.

His moment of insight suggests that prior to this learning experience he had thought, along with most others, that Lincoln had been a Democratic President. Instead of simply making fun of him for being a blithering idiot, one should inquire as to how he came to think that Lincoln has been a Democrat.

Certainly it was not something he had learned in school.

Certainly it was not something he had read in a book.

Certainly it was not something he had learned from Fox where Lincoln never is mentioned.

So how then did he come to think of Lincoln as being a Democrat?

He may have presumed that since the former party of Lincoln now is a Confederate party of malice, that Lincoln therefore must have belong to the opposition party.

He may have presumed that since Steven Spielberg had produced a movie about Lincoln that therefore anyone who was a hero to La La Land liberals must have been Democratic.

He may have presumed that since New York State Governor Mario Cuomo had been a big admirer of Lincoln that therefore Lincoln must have been a Democrat as well.

He even may have been vaguely aware of Martin Luther King standing at the Lincoln Memorial at his “I have a dream” speech and since all Middle-Passage blacks are Democrats, therefore Lincoln must have been one too.

In short, we will never know for sure how it came to be that he thought Lincoln was a Democrat only to just recently discover that he was in error.

This eureka moment of understanding raises two critical issues. First, it calls into question his vaunted skill on not needing to be prepped, of not needing to read, of not needing to know anything in advance because he is so smart he can quickly size up the moment, understand the players, and determine the correct course of action. By now we are all in awe of his perceptive ability to make sense of health care, Korean-Chinese history, and taxes and to realize how easy the job of being President of the United States of America is for him even though he had no relevant experience and little knowledge going into the job. After but 100 plus days in office, the job is old hat to him, even boring since it is so easy. Unlike with his predecessor, there is no drama to his administration where everything runs like clockwork in a well-oiled smoothly humming machine.

Secondly, his Lincoln-as-Republican realization calls to mind what else he didn’t know about Lincoln besides his political party. For example, Lincoln concluded his second inaugural address with the famous words:

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

Is malice towards none a characteristic of our current Republican president?

Is charity for all a characteristic of our current Republican president?

Is binding up the nation’s wounds characteristic of our Republican president?

Does Lincoln having been a Republican have any meaning to people who claim to be Republicans today?

In Lincoln’s annual message to Congress, he referred to America as “the last best hope of earth.” Such thoughts continued the tradition begun by John Winthrop even before there was a United States. They were proclaimed most recently and prominently by Republican President Ronald Reagan who declared our country to be a shining city on a hill that the eyes of the world are upon. The America of Winthrop to Reagan and even beyond had a special role in human history. Even the Politically Correct acknowledge America’s special role in human history. True it is as the Great Satan but that still is a pretty impressive global role in human history.

Where is the vision today? In a world where everything is transactional, where everything is about the deal, where everything is about making money, there is no vision to inspire the world in a journey to a better tomorrow. So he now knows that Lincoln was Republican, so what?

Does Lincoln having been a Republican have any meaning to people who claim to be Republicans today?

Are there any ramifications to America’s abandonment of its role as a city on hill that the eyes of the world are upon? Certainly Turkey is happy about it. So is the Philippines. And Venezuela would be too if its autocrat prevails in the battle against democracy there.

Former Deputy Director of the CIA David Cohen warned of the danger to America of a purely commercial policy. He drew on his own experiences working with undercover agents from other countries. They were people who put their lives on the line for America precisely because it stood for everything our immature child president rejects. The values of the city on a hill that the eyes of the world are upon offered an alternative to the life they knew in their own country. They dreamed of living the American dream.

Cohen writes: “that image of the United States as the ‘last best hope of earth,” proclaimed by our leaders for decades, is an enormously effective recruiting too…” He goes on to tout the value of “the American idea” in promoting our interests. As he put it: “Tarnishing the idea that America stands for something uniquely good makes it harder for the C.I.A. to recruit spies.” Cohen concludes his op-ed piece with a ringing endorsement of America’s role in human history in starkly immediate terms for the safety of the country: “relinquishing America’s place as the shining city on the hill will do real and profound harm to our national security.” Our immature child president genuinely lacks the mental necessities to understand this reasoning. What about the former party of Lincoln?

Speaking again of Lincoln, let me conclude with one other area where his vision and that of the party that he belonged to differ – immigration.

In a debate with Stephen Douglas on July 10, 1858, in Chicago, the future President redefined how one was to define an American in a way those who are ignorant of Lincoln have not yet learned. Suppose one wasn’t a Son or a Daughter of the American Revolution? Could one still fully celebrate July 4? Listen to Lincoln’s answer:

In every way we are better men in the age, and race, and country in which we live for these celebrations. But after we have done all this we have not yet reached the whole. There is something else connected with it. We have besides these men-descended by blood from our ancestors-among us perhaps half our people who are not descendants at all of these men, they are men who have come from Europe-German, Irish, French and Scandinavian-men that have come from Europe themselves, or whose ancestors have come hither and settled here, finding themselves our equals in all things. If they look back through this history to trace their connection with those days by blood, they find they have none, they cannot carry themselves back into that glorious epoch and make themselves feel that they are part of us, but when they look through that old Declaration of Independence they find that those old men say that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” and then they feel that that moral sentiment taught in that day evidences their relation to those men, that it is the father of all moral principle in them, and that they have a right to claim it as though they were blood of the blood, and flesh of the flesh of the men who wrote that Declaration, (loud and long continued applause) and so they are. That is the electric cord in that Declaration that links the hearts of patriotic and liberty-loving men together, that will link those patriotic hearts as long as the love of freedom exists in the minds of men throughout the world.

For Lincoln, one did not need to be a blood-descendant of the American Revolution to be one with the spirit of the event. Through adherence to the principles of the Declaration of Independence every American stood as one with those who had fought and died for America’s birth. The new Republican Party that Lincoln had joined was the immigrant party (except maybe not so clearly the party of the Irish), the party whose political interests were served by reaching out newly arrived and would-be Americans. By disavowing immigrant restrictions it succeeded in holding on to a fair share of the foreign-born vote, especially among younger Protestant voters. These immigrants from Scandinavia, France and Cornwall, among other places, supported Lincoln, Union and America.

Learning that Lincoln was a Republican should be the first step and not the only step for the president of the former party of Lincoln. If he is having trouble learning what it means to be an American, perhaps there are some Russians who can help him.

Amanda Anisimova
Scott McIntyre for the NYT

Konstanin Anismov, Russian immigrant and father of Maria Anisimova who graduated from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and of Amanda Anisimova who will represent the United States as the youngest player in the French Open since 2005, on his immigration to America:

We really like Spain, but then we recognized when we visited America that everyone who comes here is going to feel like home. In Europe, you always feel like a foreigner because it is a completely different culture. America is a united country where people come from all over the world, and after a couple of years, they feel this is home. (“Only 15, but Ready for Her Grand Slam Debut” NYT 5/27/17).

If only the former party of Lincoln or the party of identity politics believed that. Is there no Lincoln in American politics today?

 

Teaching Teachers Local History: NYSED Changes the Rules

Middle School Field Trip

The New York State Education Department has changed the rules for the professional development of teachers. The changes affect teaching local and state history as well as all other subjects. The new system is called Continuing Teacher and Leader Education (CTLE). It was the subject of a workshop on April 2 prior to the formal start of the annual conference of the Museum Association of New York (MANY). I attended that workshop and consider it to have been the most important session in the conference.

By coincidence, Bruce Dearstyne has just written a post in New York History Blog entitled “New York History: Reaching Out to Social Studies Teachers.” I recommend it to you. He points out the three times in the k-12 curriculum that offer the best opportunity for infusing local and state history into the classroom and adds some comments:

*The Grade 4 Framework is entitled “New York State and Local History and Government” though coverage of New York history tapers off after about the mid-19th century and local history really is not covered at all.

*The Grade 7/8 Framework is titled “History of the United States and New York State” but in fact it focuses on U.S. history, with New York receiving little attention.

*The Grade 11 Framework focuses on “United States History and Government.” New York is not represented here but, given the fact that New York is arguably the nation’s most historically significant state, with many national trends starting here or playing out here, there is potential for infusing New York examples.

The reality of the situation is that the history community has to make the extra effort if local and state history is to be included in the curriculum. There will be the exceptional teachers who have a genuine interest in the subject and will make that effort and reach out to the local historical society but by and large teachers can comply with the current curriculum guidelines without paying any attention to you. As Bruce notes:

There are opportunities, particularly at the Grade 4 and 7/8 level, for integrating local, state, and national history, but it is up to historians and teachers to determine how best to do that. In fact, the preface to the Grade 7/8 Framework includes this short, but rather open-ended, suggestion:

“Teachers are encouraged to incorporate local features of state history in the course, such as the Dutch in the Hudson Valley, the Germans in the Schoharie Valley, the French in the Champlain Valley, Fort Niagara, the Brooklyn Naval Yard, the Seneca Falls Convention, Underground Railroad locations, war memorials, and other features in their community.”

Even the Path through History website includes more topics or themes in New York State history than this abbreviated notice.

Besides the shortcomings in the curriculum, the elephant in the room that is not being addressed is how teachers are to learn the local and state history which then can be incorporated into the classroom. Apparently it is by osmosis since no clear path is provided.

Do teachers need to learn local and state history as part of their certification process? No, not as social studies teachers or as elementary school teachers.

If a prospective teacher wanted to learn about local and state history while obtaining a masters degree, are such courses offered in the graduate schools of education or by the history department of the school? Rarely. How many SUNY schools, the major statewide producer of certified teachers, have such courses even as electives? How many of the other regional colleges with education programs offer such classes? So even if someone wanted to learn about state and local history, one would be hard pressed to do so through the certification process as it exists today.

Even if one did learn state history, would happen if the newly certified teacher took a job in a different region of the state? How would one learn about the local history in the area where one now taught?

Here is where professional development offers a solution. In general terms, teachers move up the salary rung by taking classes that enhance their ability to perform as a teacher. In this area, the educational experience can be in content (the history itself) as well as in the pedagogy (teaching the history in the classroom). Historical societies and museums therefore have the opportunity to offer to teachers for credit programs on local history. Of course, teachers are not obligated to take such classes.

When IHARE began to offer Teacherhostels, programs based on visiting history museums, hearing from scholars, and taking walks and bus tours, it was to provide content information in history. It might be thematic such as on the American Revolution or Hudson River Art or it might be geographic such as the history of Beacon, Cold Spring, Hastings-on-Hudson, Poughkeepsie, etc., or regional such as Hudson Valley or Mohawk Valley history. Here was a way to bring teachers and the history community together: to combine awareness of what teachers had to teach with the resources of the history museum. With teachers obligated to take 175 hours of professional development over a five year period, I thought my day-long, weekend, and weeklong programs of up to 45 hours fit the exact need of the teachers.

Boy, was I wrong! I was so clueless. It is impossible to underestimate the Mickey Mouse programs schools were able to create to comply with the state-mandated requirement. At the MANY session, the NYS presenters mentioned that the abuses in the professional development programs directly led to the creation of the CTLE system.

I would like to take this opportunity to share with you one example of school system ingenuity that appeared in the local newspaper. It is about a student program and not a teacher program but the defense of it by the school system is suggestive of the thinking that went into authorizing professional development programs as well. I am referring to a Hudson River cruise for 8th graders. The cost of the cruise was $37,000 (see the image for the cruise ship). That is not a typo. I won’t itemize the costs. Fortunately it is mostly paid for by the parents and the PTA and not the taxpayer.

I have used cruises in my own programs. We have cruised the Hudson River, the Mohawk River/Erie Canal, and the Champlain Canal. Generally these cruises are the final activities of the weekend or weeklong program. They provide a nice chance to enjoy the scenery in a relaxing setting and talk about what has been presented and what people will do when they return to the real world. Sometimes there are re-enactors/entertainers on board who talk about their time period. And at no time did a cruise cost $37,000.

How did the school system legitimate the annual Hudson River cruise of the 8th graders costing $37.000?  As the article notes, it turns out dining and dancing on a Hudson River cruise is part of the school curriculum. Quoting documents a concerned citizen obtain through the Freedom of Information Law, the school superintendent wrote:

“The field trip fosters student development and personal worth by celebrating and rewarding students’ hard work and completion of their middle school journey. The field trip promotes communication skills and understanding of human relations to the extent it enables students to travel together and interact with each other, chaperones and boat staff during the cruise. By travelling into the community together and along the Hudson River to NYC, the field trip expands students’ knowledge of society as they prepare for the next step of their academic and adult journeys.”

As is that wasn’t enough:

“[the cruise] is an essential component of the district’s eighth-grade academic program, specifically by promoting social-emotional learning across disciplines and communication skills in the English language arts of literacy curriculum.”

Does this person know how to sling the bull or what? Notice the expert use of approved jargon terms to convey a high-level meaning to a social activity. Upon entering the education jargon into my Universal Translator, I discovered that the true meaning of the words of the Superintendent can be more succinctly stated as:

LET’S PARTY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It is this precise mindset that schools brought to the professional development requirements until at last New York State Education Department said enough is enough and instituted CTLE in 2016.

So what does this mean?

Previously each school district decided for itself what constituted professional development credit. By contrast, in Connecticut and Massachusetts, IHARE had to register with the respective state education departments and become an approved by the state. Under the new system, the same will be true in New York.  If you are not a state-approved entity you cannot offer teachers CTLE credit. The MANY workshop discussed the approval process which will be the subject of a future post where I will walk through the process.

With CTLE, the professional development contact hours for permanent certified teachers was reduced from 175 hours every five years to 100. While that seems like a cutback, there is a change in the recordkeeping process and the documenting of the individuals and institutions providing the professional development program. Think of a course curriculum or the information you obtain on a potential speaker at your site.  Just as you want to know if the speaker is legitimate to speak on a specific topic, so too, the State wants to ensure that the CTLE providers are legitimate as well: what are the credentials?

Teachers can be audited meaning the programs they submit to demonstrate compliance with the 100 hours requirement can be reviewed to ascertain if it really meets NYS Education Department standards.

School districts were automatically granted the right to issue CTLE credit. They do not need to apply to the State for approval. So if you are a small historic site that only deals with one school system than CTLE won’t affect you much except you will be asked by the school to document the credentials of your organization, the staff, and activities in the program. However, if you wish to offer a program to teachers from multiple school districts on a county, regional, or state basis then you will be better off becoming an authorized CTLE provider.

I will review the material presented at the conference workshop including contact information in a future post. I also have a copy of the PowerPoint presentation from the workshop which is available to anyone interested it.  There are still details to be worked out as became evident in the workshop since it is clear that not all historic sites and museums will apply for authorization. The New York State Museum itself which is part of the Education Department had to apply and I presume the same requirements apply to NPS sites as well private and public museums.  Also discussed as the workshop broke up, was since not everyone is even going to apply, something needs to be done to address that.

Finally, no matter what rules the State Education Department installs, one should never underestimate the ability of people to game the system.  One lesson from Bruce’s analysis confirms what was previously suspected: although there are opportunities in the k-12 curriculum for local and state history, it is easy to ignore them completely unless it also is part of national history (Battle of Saratoga, Erie Canal, 9/11).  The bigger issue for state and local history is not the CTLE but the curriculum itself and the certification requirements to be a teacher.

Comments on Bruce Dearstyne’s Blog

I am including some of the comments made in response to Bruce’s post.

1. Debi Duke: Thanks, Bruce! Social studies teachers — please join Teaching the Hudson Valley for our annual summer institute, July 25-27, in Hyde Park, BUILDING COMMUNITY WITH PLACE-BASED LEARNING. Workshops and field experiences cover all grades. Topics include Strategies for Exploring Your Amazing Hometown, Service Learning at Historic Sites, Votes for Women!: Inspiring Student Community Involvement through the History of Women’s Rights, and much more. CTLE approved. http://www.teachingthehudsonvalley.org/thv2017/

Note: I have attended this conference on multiple occasions and even included participation in as part of a Hudson Valley Teacherhostel.

2. Please forward this email to all NYS educators in our public and private schools. Nice job, Bruce, and this needs to spread ‘like wildfire!’

3. Casey Jakubowski: Hi Bruce, et al. Capitol Area school development association is working closely with social studies teachers in creating local and state content. We have produced a series of webinars that you can access via your school. Casdany.org is the location for the website that will tell you how to get access.

Note: He formerly worked at the Education Department.

4. Bill Hosley: All history is local. Local is the level that matter most! I’d go further and say that one of the reasons History has lost its grip on students and the public is because academic historians have put too much emphasis on political history – “great men, great events.” Maybe that’s changing and maybe I am wrong – but I personally didn’t totally engage with history until I discovered it was all around me and in 1001 small things forgotten – touchstones to different contexts and eras – thrilling, immediate, tactile and visual. When and where will the revolution begin – because we need one. Local history is also the gateway to civic attachment – a real and substantial contemporary human need.

Note: We see other at history conferences and he has been a tireless advocate for local history in Connecticut as well as a responder to my posts.

5. Kyle Jenks: Great to see this positive feedback from so many people. You have struck a nerve that sings like a guitarist string! As they say in my favorite Bond movie, the Daniel Craig version of Casino Royale, “I am all in.”
My thrust is adding quality First Person Interpreters to the menu of educational methodology which has its academic roots in Process Drama, aka Applied Theater and Educational Theater.
All reading this may be heartened to know that I have met a woman with a noble cause. She is working on creating an online resource as a one stop shop for teachers and museum professionals to find interpreters that cut the mustard by demonstrating the highest level of commitment to scholarly research and performance acumen to cast as accurate a portrayal as possible.
Anyone interested in staying apprised of this development is welcome to contact me
at kyle@greatlittlemadison.com
Thank you for your thorough and persuasive message.

Note: Kyle will be performing as Governor Clinton in our parade as the Lower Manhattan Historical Association on July 2 at Federal Hall in Manhattan. He raises the important point about the role of individual re-enactors and performance in the teaching of history. Famed Hudson-Valley storyteller and musician Jonathan Kruk also will be performing in the parade.

Funding Women: The Award Winners

New York State Museum Exhibit

The new cycle of REDC funding is beginning. I received an invitation to attend the Mid-Hudson session on April 25. New York is having a public session the same day so I imagine the regions throughout the state are gearing up to plan for the 2017 awards.

In my posts I have been reviewing the awards from 2016. So far I have presented those granted by NYS Canals
History Anniversary Funding and part of I Love NY in two separate posts: Show Me the Money and I LoveNY Funding.

In this post I am turning to those related to the centennial of women’s suffrage in New York. While the grants can be from multiple state agencies, the bulk of them are from the New York State Council on the Arts and relate to exhibits. The funding definition in the REDC awards guide is:

Funds are available for arts and culture initiatives to eligible non-profit and local units of government. This Local Assistance support is provided under Article 3 of NYS Arts and Cultural Affairs Law for the planning, presentation and staffing of the performing, literary and visual arts that encourage broader participation and public interest in the cultural heritage of NY State and promotes tourism and economic development. Funding Programs: Arts, Culture, Heritage New Initiatives – Planning (CHPG P); Arts, Culture, Heritage New Initiatives – Implementation (CHPG I); Workforce Investment (WIP): $5,000,000 [available in total].

The examples also are suggestive of what might be available for World War I exhibits for next year.

The major award winner as one might expect was the National Women’s Hall of Fame. It received four different awards from different state agencies in a total of $1,175 million. A significant chunk is for the rehabilitation of an abandoned mill across the street from the NPS site.

The awards listed below are copied directly from the REDC publication which is available as a PDF. I mention this because you will see various spellings throughout the examples including at times within a single award. These spellings are:

National Womens Hall of Fame
Womens Activism
Womens Rights
Womans Suffrage
Woman’s suffrage
Womens Suffrage
Women’s Suffrage.

I have no explanation for the use or non-use of apostrophes or the singular versus the plural form.

Bronx

LeAp’s
Leap Womens Suffrage Commemoration
LeAp will celebrate the NYS Women’s Suffrage Centennial by exploring woman’s suffrage through the lens of the “Struggle within the Struggle,” a dramatization of the historical experience of women of color having to break through systems of oppression to achieve basic human rights.
Arts CHPG I         $45,000

Columbia

Shaker Museum
Exploring Shaker Ideas and Actions on Womens Rights: A Celebration of the Centennial of Womans Suffrage
The Shaker Museum at Mount Lebanon engages and inspires local, national, and global audiences by telling the story of the Shakers. In 2017 the museum’s programming will celebrate and explore the Shakers’ ideas and actions around women’s rights, and the lives of the women who lived at Mount Lebanon.
Arts CHPG I         $41,500

New York

Museum of the City of New York
Beyond Suffrage: 100 Years of Womens Activism in New York
In September 2017, the Museum of the City of New York will present Beyond Suffrage: 100 Years of Women’s Activism in New York. The exhibit will trace women’s activism in New York City from the suffrage movement through today and will include a focus on women activists who lived and worked in Harlem.
Arts CHPG I         $60,000

New York Historical Society
New York Womens Suffrage Exhibition
The New York Historical Society will celebrate the centennial of New York State signing women’s suffrage into law through a special satellite exhibition and audience engagement effort on Governors Island, curated by NYHS’s Teen Leaders in collaboration with the new Center for Women’s History.
Arts CHPG I         $75,000

New York City

Center for Traditional Music and Dance
NY Voices/NY Votes
NY Voices/NY Votes celebrates the legacy of the women’s suffrage movement through a series of pop-p festivals that bring the conversation about voting rights to diverse communities in Opportunity Zones by combining voter registration with arts/humanities programming, and employment/social services.
Arts CHPG I         $75,000

Onondaga

Everson Museum of Art
Seen and Heard
In “Seen and Heard,” New York’s central role in the fight for women’s suffrage serves as a catalyst for contemporary activism. The multi-media exhibition, educational programs, and artist residencies explore the language and tactics of protest through the arts in order to initiate civic engagement.
Arts CHPG I         $66,000

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.

Funds for this project will be used to support the adaptive rehabilitation of the historic 1844 Seneca Knitting Mill and transform and re-use the empty and dilapidated Mill into the Center for Great Women – the headquarters of the National Women’s Hall of Fame, drawing visitors not only to Seneca Falls, but also to the attractions within the Finger Lakes Region and across New York State.

This project is Phase III-A in the adaptive rehabilitation of the historic 1844 Seneca Knitting Mill. It will transform and re-use the first floor of the empty and dilapidated Mill into 4,200 square feet of habitable and occupiable space for exhibits and cultural activities showcasing the amazing stories of the National Women’s Hall of Fame’s Inductees.

Rehabilitation of the historic 1844 Seneca Knitting Mill, transformation of the dilapidated Mill into the Center for Great Women. This phase includes demolition, construction, interior build out and site work of the first floor.

Canals                   $125,000
MNY                      $250,000
OPRHP                  $300,000
ESD Grants          $500,000

Westchester

Westchester Arts Council Inc
Suffrage Now, A Contemporary Art Exhibition
Suffrage Now is a contemporary art exhibition celebrating New York’s historic role in the path to the 19th Amendment while reinforcing the relevance of Women’s Suffrage today. Artworks consider contemporary events alongside historical to explore what the right to vote means to Americans.
Arts CHPG I         $75,000

The awards listed here are separate from any funding through the Women’s Suffrage Commission established by the State with Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who spoke at the second suffrage meeting in Waterloo (next to Seneca Falls) last year, as the chair. The commission consists of:

Noemi Gazala, Superintendent of the Women’s Rights National Historical Park (NPS)
Rose Harvey, Commissioner of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation
Kathy Hochul, Lieutenant Governor (appointed by Governor Cuomo)
Deborah Hughes, President of the Susan B. Anthony Museum and House
Dr. Jennifer LeMack, New York State Museum Chief Curator of History (appointed by commissioner of education)
Sen. Betty Little (appointed by the temporary president of the Senate)
Christina Lotz, Seneca County Clerk (appointed by minority leader of the Assembly)
Senator Velmanette Montgomery (appointed by minority leader of the Senate)
Kathleen Neville, Board Member of the New York Council for the Humanities
Dare Thompson, President of the League of Women Voters of New York State
Sally Roesch Wagner, Director of the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation
Eve Waltermaurer, Director of Research and Evaluation at The Benjamin Center, SUNY New Paltz (appointed by the speaker of the Assembly)
Howard Zemsky, President, CEO and Commissioner of Economic Development
Susan Zimet, President of 2020: Project Women, Inc.

According to the website dated August 22, 2016:  During its inaugural meeting, members of the Commission outlined plans for commemoration events to take place over the next three years that highlight historic achievements for women.

The Commission maintains a calendar of events. The big one upcoming appears to be with the NPS at Seneca Falls:

Join Women’s Rights National Historical Park for Convention Days 2017 July 14-16. This three day event will be filled with exciting speakers, historical actors (Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Frederick Douglass), theater performances, children’s activities, multiple art exhibits, vendors, and so much more.

Apparently there is still time to participate.

We are currently seeking people & organizations who would like to table at the event. We welcome groups with themes of equality, human rights, civil rights, and women’s rights. If you are interested at tabling, please contact Ashley Nottingham at: ashley_nottingham@nps.gov

Related to this event is VoteTilla Week, scheduled for July 16-22, 2017. Participants will travel in canal boats from Seneca Falls to Rochester, concluding with a final celebration at the National Susan B. Anthony Museum & House. Along the way, boats will dock at towns and villages for historic re-enactments, speeches and music, co-hosted by local groups and partner organizations including the Canal Society of New York State, Seward House and the University of Rochester’s Susan B. Anthony Center for Women’s Leadership. This partnership explains why some of the awards by the New York Canal Corporation, which is beginning its bicentennial, are connected to the centennial of women’s suffrage.

My impression is that the funding for the Commission totals in the hundreds of thousands dollars and it serves more as a promoter/coordinator than as an initiator/developer.

I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate my position on history anniversary celebrations. In my opinion, the appropriate state office for the funding and leadership for anniversary events is the Office of the New York State Historian. We are, after all, talking about history anniversaries. Funding for events related to a state anniversary should be through the office directly involved with New York state history. At present in the REDC funding cycle the state historian receives nothing. This omission is due to REDC reporting to the Governor while the cultural organizations, NYS Museum, Archives, and Library, report to the Regents. State history pays the price for these turf wars. Another possibility is for the Regents to create their own counterpart to the REDC process so organizations can apply to the Archives, Library, and Museum for funding. The Regents could even use the same form ESD does.

News from the New York State Historian

 

Devin Lander, the New York State Historian, is approaching his one-year anniversary in May. One of the changes he made since he attained this full-time historian position involves the creation of a State Historian website announced on September 16, 2016. In his message he wrote:

Find statewide history at your fingertips.

The idea for this website is to provide an online conduit for information exchange between the New York’s historical field and the work of the NYS Museum Office of State History.  The website includes links to various history related resources that provide information on grants, best practices, conferences, etc.  The website also provides information on what the Office of State History is working on related to exhibits, publications, lectures, research, and events.

The website also has a calendar of history-related events taking place related across the state.  This calendar seeks to present simple content (date, time, location, brief description) created by historians for their event and either sent to me for posting.  Types of events can include: historical celebrations, lectures, exhibit openings, fairs, festivals, meetings, reenactments, etc. 

Please email your events for posting to: statehistory@nysed.org

The website’s news and articles division also seeks content from the field.  My voice should not be the only voice heard.  My colleagues in the Office of State History will be writing entries describing the work they are doing.  I also hope to feature “guest” authors who will write about the work they are doing related to New York State History.  I am seeking article entries from Local Government Historians, academic historians, Federal Government historians, historians from other State agencies, and historical museums and society staff.  Please send me ideas!  The entries should be brief (1,200-1,500 words) and related to interesting work being done on New York State history.

The website is a positive addition for people interested in the state of New York State history but I confess I had not paid it much attention since its inaugural. It was there if you looked for it but how did you know if there was anything new to look at? Perhaps if Devin sent notifications of changes to John Warren, a former teacher of his and editor of New York State History Blog, it would help disseminate the information to a broader audience.

I was reintroduced to the website when I conducted a search for a canal barge program to be done by Corning Glass (subject of a future post). At that point, I noticed his admittedly belated New Year posting dated February 14. It contained information about the newly established History Advisory Group that was the subject of a recent post by me on March 13. My source for the post was public information from press releases but it turns out there was additional information from Devin’s post which deserves attention.

He wrote:

On December 6th, 2016, the NYS Museum hosted a gathering of the newly formed New York State History Advisory Group.  This Advisory Group was brought together at my request to provide guidance and suggestions to me related to the field of history in New York, including opportunities and challenges.  The group is purely advisory and volunteer in nature and includes representatives from various perspectives including local government historians, state agencies, the National Park Service, heritage areas, academia, historic preservation, and history museums.  The intent is for the group to meet twice a year and for the members to serve two-year terms to ensure a rotating diversity of viewpoints and perspectives.  The mission of the Advisory Group is to advise the State Historian on ways to strengthen the capacity of New York’s historical programs and history community to carry out the preservation, management, interpretation, teaching, learning, research, publication, study and use of New York’s state and local history and to elevate history as a field of endeavor at the national, state and local level.

After listing the members, Devin proceeded to reveal some of what the attendees actually discussed when they met, information not in the press notices I read.

At the December 6th meeting, there were several points of interest that were discussed by the group.  One topic discussed was updating the document “Duties and Functions of New York State’s Local Government Historians,” which is being amended and is now posted on the website.  It is a brief document that serves as a de facto “job description” for local government historians.  It can act as a guiding document for local government historians as the Association of Public Historians of NYS (APHNYS) works to create a comprehensive manual.

Another topic that generated much discussion was the possibility of changing NYS History month from November to a different, more accessible, month.  November tends to be a problematic month because so many historic sites that might host History Month programming and events close after Columbus Day.  The Advisory Group discussed what possible months may be better and suggestions included October (which is already Archives Month) and possibly April (which is the month when New York’s first Constitution was ratified).  April might run into some of the same issues as November with many sites not opening for their season until May.  To change History Month from November to another month requires an amendment to the existing law which would require an act of the Legislature.  Further input from the field is welcomed going forward.

The duties and functions of the municipal historian is a topic which has been discussed here on several occasions (for example, see, County Clerks/County Historians: A Match Made in Albany?  One of my favorite sessions at the annual conference of the Association of Public Historians of New York State (APHNYS) is the new historian session. Unfortunately the tale of woe remains constant: no training, and no guidance as people are thrown into the job. The lack of clearly defined specified responsibilities makes it easy for county executives, mayors, and town supervisors to dismiss, disregard, and diminish the position. A SUNY grad student composed guidelines in 1997. They need to be updated to take into account the new technologies. I have suggested a week-long training session for county historians in Albany with the various related state agencies. Based on the principle of “start at the very beginning, a very good place to start” and take it one step at a time, defining the position would be a major step forward in improving the status of the position throughout the state. Creating these guidelines and procedures along with the requisite training should be a top priority.

As for State History Month, a relevant question is “what are we trying to achieve with this month or designation?” We have a black history month and a women’s history month. What are the goals of these months and what needs to be done to achieve those goals? Does anyone think that without State History Month, Path through History weekends, and the other officially-designated time periods there would be no talks, tours, walks, events, or anniversaries? In fact many talks, tours, walks, events, and anniversaries occur at otherwise ordinary times that do not fall within the rubric of being part of an officially-designated time period. In baseball there is WAR or “wins over replacement.” It means what does someone contribute above over not being there. For example, George Bailey added a lot to the fabric of life in Bedford Hills by being present; subtract him and it’s a big loss to the community. How much of these specially-designated time periods are merely padding a resume for show without really adding value? Let’s use the issue of State History Month to seriously think about what we want to accomplish by highlighting a specific time interval and what are the ways to accomplish it.

Wouldn’t the annual conference of the Museum Association of New York (MANY) just held in Saratoga Springs have been an ideal venue to reach out to the history community to discuss this and other issues? If there could be separate discussion sessions for executive directors, collections and exhibit design staff, on programs, for students, and fundraising, why couldn’t there be a session with the State Historian? The same for the annual conferences of APHNYS and GHHN.

Just as I was preparing to write this blog, another change was introduced into the mix. Devin sent out an email about a listserv he has created:

Office of State History Newsletter

Hello,

You are receiving this email from the Office of State History Listserv because of your interest or work within the field of New York State History. This listserv has been created by the New York State Historian as a way to communicate with the field regarding important events, news, or other information that will be made available on the Office of State History website at: http://www.nysm.nysed.gov/research-collections/state-history.

The listserv will only be used to direct your attention to updates to the website. If you are not interested in receiving these updates through the listserv, you may unsubscribe at any time.

If you would like to have public historical events or historical news items posted on the website, or if you have an idea for a more in depth historical posting, please contact statehistory@nysed.gov.

I am not sure exactly how one subscribes to the list if one is not already on it. Every municipal historian at the village, town, city, and county level should be a subscriber. Of course, that would necessitate a database of all such individuals. APHNYS strives to maintain such a file but it is a daunting challenge for a volunteer organization. One regulatory change I would support is for all county executives to annual certify the names and contact information of the historians for each of the municipalities in the county…starting with the county historian position.

In addition, I think all statewide organizations both private and public should include New York History Blog in the distribution so news isn’t simply restricted to one’s members. Certainly every county historian should do so as well…but then not every county has a county historian and even those that do don’t necessarily send out monthly or even quarterly messages to the history community of the county on what is going on. Now we are back at the beginning of the process whereby creating the guidelines for what municipal historians are supposed to do is the first step. Imagine if full-time Orange County historian Johanna Yuan’s monthly newsletter was available as a template for all counties to use simply by plugging in their photos, logo, and information so everyone wouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel. Who really knows what is going on out there among the county historians, a subject for a forthcoming post.

In conclusion, I would like to thank Devin for being a dedicated reader of my posts and for the steps he has taken on behalf of New York State history so far, undoubtedly with more to come.

Park/History Advocacy Day: Who Advocates for History?

On March 13, I participated in Park Advocacy Day. These advocacy days are part of the annual budget ritual in Albany. Groups of people representing different issues converge on the capital to meet with and lobby state legislators on behalf of their area of concern. Such people are physically identifiable due to their tote bags, t-shirts, or in our cases, green scarves signifying the green of the parks.

Parks Advocacy Day targets legislators on behalf of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation (NYSOPRHP). Technically the government organ is responsible for both parks and historic sites. In some cases an historic site may consist of grounds and therefore serve as a park as well. As will be seen, the emphasis in the advocacy is on the parks side of its domain more so than the historic sites. The number of parks and the visitation totals to the parks far exceeds those to the historic sites. A similar situation exists with the National Park Service. One notes both entities are called parks departments, no one ever refers to NYSOPRHP by name as the “History” department.

The non-government organization responsible for advocating on behalf of NYSOPRHP is Parks & Trails New York and secondarily the Open Space Institute. According to its website, Parks & Trails has a staff of 11 people (including one intern.). It is located at 29 Elk Street, Albany NY 12207 | (518) 434-1583. It is an organization of over $1,000,000 each in assets, annual revenue, and annual expenses. It is dedicated to lobbying on behalf of parks. PTNY Executive Director Robin Dropkin is an occasional reader of my posts. NYSOPRHP Commissioner Rose Harvey is a regular reader of my posts.

What is the history community equivalent to Parks & Trails New York?

In addition to PTNY, there is a government commission dedicated to the NYSOPRHP. As defined on the NYSOPRHP website:

The State Council of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation consists of the Commissioner of State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, the Commissioner of Environmental Conservation, Chairs of the eleven Regional Parks Commissions (including a representative of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission), and Chair of the State Board of Historic Preservation. The Regional Commissions are charged with acting as a central advisory body on all matters affecting parks, recreation and historic preservation within their respective regions, with particular focus on the operations of the State Parks and Historic Sites.

The chair of the commission is Lucy Rockefeller Waletzky. She participates in advocacy day sometimes on behalf of the Taconic region where she lives and sometimes as representing the entire state. She is a dedicated reader of my posts.

There are 11 regional commissions within this framework each which has at least five members. These divisions do not correspond with the divisions of I Love NY, REDC funding, or the municipal historians (APHNYS). I do wish to stress that these state and regional commissions are all an official part of the government.

What is the history community equivalent to the NYSOPRHP commissions?

During the morning presentations each speaker talked about their own experiences. The talks tended to focus on parks they had visited in their own youth, on trails, summer camps, hikes and so forth. No one really spoke about a seminal encounter with state or American history. Then again, this was Park Advocacy Day, not History Advocacy Day.

After lunch, which was provided free as part of the program, it was off to lobby the legislators. In the vernacular of lobbying this actions involves “asks,” as in we are asking the legislators for something specific. We are not there to discuss our inner-Thoreau or exclaim on the wonders of communing with nature. We are there to ask for money (or possibly a regulatory action). In our case the asks were:

1. Support the proposed $120 million capital budget for state parks and $50 million for DEC.

A list of the capital projects was provided in our packets. The items overwhelming were for parks and not historic sites. Jones Beach was the largest with $10,000,000. The next largest was for $4,500,000 for emergency repair for a collapsed slope along the Croton Aqueduct. Although it is an historic site, its primary use is as a flat trail through multiple communities along the Hudson where people jog, bike, walk, and stroll alone and with families. Similarly the Walkway over the Hudson, an old railroad bridge, would receive $3,525,000 in two grants in the budget including to build a visitor center. As with the grounds on many estates along the Hudson, these historic sites function as parks like Central Park in Manhattan. I mention these items not to disparage them or to suggest they are improper, but to highlight the funding for the recreational side of the NYSOPRHP department.

2. Support continuing the level of funding for the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) at $300 million.

3. Support $500,000 for the Park and Trail Partnership grants for local Friends groups.

The Friends groups were the subject of an earlier posts on Friends with Benefits. The Taconic region requests close to 50% of the amount. The region includes Olana which was the subject of my earlier post and two representatives from the Olana friends group were part of the Advocacy participants. These friends groups also appear on the NYSOPRHP website as part of the page for each individual site.

Each legislator is left with a packet of information about the asks.

What would be the asks of the history community if there was a history advocacy day?

What would the history community ask of NYSOPRHP?

What would the history community ask of I LoveNY?

What would the history community ask of the Office of Cultural Education?

One readily observes here the dilemma facing the history community. One might think that the New York State Historical Association would serve in the same capacity for history as Parks & Trails does for parks. NYSHA has not performed in that role and no longer defines itself even on paper as organization with state-wide responsibilities.

After my last post on the New York State History Advisory group which State Historian Devin Lander has created, I received two emails, the first from someone at a college history museum and the second a regional APHNYS historian:

Thanks for this. FYI, the New York State Historical Association (Cooperstown) no longer exists as such – on March 13, the Board of Regents approved changing the legal name of the organization to “Fenimore Art Museum.” This change reflects a long-term evolution of purpose that has been underway for at least 25 years (and in many ways, since 1939, when Stephen Clark invited NYSHA to move to Cooperstown from Ticonderoga). See the official press release (http://www.fenimoreartmuseum.org/about_us/press_room/press_releases/fenimore_art_museum_amends_charter) for further information.

and:

What’s happening at NYSHA in Cooperstown? They stopped printing their quarterly New York History journal and now is only online. I’m having trouble reading it and one time I could only go to page 8.

In today’s [newspaper] an article said NYSHA was changing its name to Fenimore Art Museum. I’ve heard that NYSHA was having some financial problems. I sense a trend from history to art and much southwest Indian artifacts. I never understood why NYSHA accepted such a large collection of Indian items from the southwest???

This could be a topic for one of your posts.

At the just concluded annual conference of the Museum Association of New York (MANY; to be the subject of future posts), John Warren, editor New York History Blog informed me that he had just posted a blog on the topic

NYSHA Defunct: New York State Historical Association Is No More

Clearly there is void with no private organization even pretending to represent the voice of the state history community.

So what should be done? Here are my asks.

1. We need a friends of history group comparable to the Park & Trails organization.
2. We need NYSOPRHP
(i) to designate one person in each of its 11 commissions to be the history representative for the history sites in those regions
(ii) for those 11 people to meet periodically with the chair of the commission.
3. We need the Office of Cultural Education perhaps at the request of the Regents and its Cultural Education subcommittee to create a history commission comparable to the parks one at NYSOPRHP.
4. We need a representative of the history community to join the Tourism Action Committee just as there is a member of I LoveNY on the history advisory group.
5. We need a representative of the New York State history community to join the board of the New York State Council for the Social Studies.
6. We need to develop an agenda or lists of asks in the areas of capital projects/funding curriculum, programs including anniversary funding, and tourism.
7. We need to include National Park Service historic sites in the discussion.

The above points are an ambitious vision and there should be no doubt that even if people reading this post are nodding their heads “yes,” that is a long way from any of the asks actually happening.

Trump versus Star Trek: The Battle is Engaged

We the People Live

Once again Star Trek has proven itself as an accurate predictor of our present. Nearly 50 years ago an episode of the original Star Trek series predicted the meltdown we just witnessed in the abortive effort to repeal and replace Obamacare. By perhaps no coincidence whatsoever, the very day that the effort went down in flames the episode was shown on TV. May the Force be with us.

Last August, before the presidential election, I wrote a post Empire State Presidential Elections (1944-2016): A Day in Infamy. The post reviewed the State of New York’s history and the presidency. New Yorkers had become president. New Yorkers had run for president and lost. New Yorkers had run for a party nomination and lost. And New Yorkers had dithered over whether or not to run. All in all, from the time New York became the Empire State with the completion of the Erie Canal into the 20th century, New York has played a prominent role in the story of the American presidency.

Typically these New Yorkers were governors. Typically the people who took the leap into national politics at the highest level had honed their skills and made a name for themselves through being the governor of the Empire State. They had executive political experience. They had participated in the making of the sausage. They had engaged in the horse trading. So when they made the leap to the next level they were ready or as ready as one could be without having been a successful general. The epitome of this preparation occurred in the 1944 election when the candidates of both major parties had New York State gubernatorial experience.

The tradition died in 2016. Once again there were two New Yorkers running for national office. Since the loser of the race is not the issue here, I will refrain from any comments about her. As for the winning candidate, here is what I wrote in August months before his victory:

Our two Empire State presidential candidates are not identical. Since everything you need to know you can learn from Star Trek, it is appropriate to turn there for insight. In the episode, The Children Shall Lead, the children on an outpost are rendered orphans but display no trauma over the horror of losing their parents. The cause is a beast called “Angel” by them and named Gorgan. The richly costumed sleekly haired human looking monster is skilled in exploiting their pain to service his gain. He dominates them and in the ways of science fiction takes control of the Starship Enterprise.

Not to worry. Kirk’s dedication to the spirit of Star Trek prevails. His hero and role model is, after all, Abraham Lincoln. He takes back his ship. He takes back his crew. He returns the Enterprise to its rightful path. He defeats the monstrosity that has temporarily commandeered them. In the final showdown between the forces of light and the forces of darkness, Kirk calls on the deceived children to see the ugliness of the monster who led them astray. He tells them:

Without you children he’s nothing.
The evil remains within him.
Look how ugly he really is.
Look at him and don=t be afraid.

With each phrase, the children see more and more of the truth and the image of the monster becomes uglier and uglier. In the end, Gorgan is revealed as the grotesque monster he always was underneath his superficial exterior. As befitting his debased nature, when exposed for the disgusting ugly incarnation of evil that he is, his parting words to his former admirers who now spurn him are:

Death to you all!
Death to you all!
Death to you all!

Perhaps the first person on the international scene to see the truth of our President was the Russian leader. It is easy to understand why our immature child President would want Macho-Macho Man to be his BFF but how long could he deceive the Russian strongman? During the presidential election, a question about the nuclear triad had stumped the future President. In a phone call between Macho-Macho Man and the immature child president, the Russian raised the issue of START, he wanted to negotiate the terms for a possible extension of the strategic arms treaty. Naturally, he was unable to do so since he was conversing with a person as ignorant then as he had been earlier. Instead Macho-Macho Man witnessed a blithering idiot babble about how America is a loser in all treaties. This was the moment of truth. This was the moment of revelation. This was the moment of eyes being opened. Our immature child President may still be of use to Macho-Macho Man, but not as an adult leader.

For Republicans in Congress, the moment of truth occurred during the horse-trading in the vain effort to resuscitate the doomed Trumpcare bill. This was a time of governing not campaigning. All the slogans from the professional political wrestling arena, all the hissy-fit tweets in the wee hours of the morning, all the simpleminded solutions were no longer sufficient. What worked on the campaign trail where one speaks in “poetry” proved useless when the need arose to govern in “prose.” The Republican representatives observed first-hand, up close and personal that the immature child president had nothing to offer. He had no vision. He had no ideas. He had no skill in negotiating. He had no ability to make a deal. He was useless. Sad.

This experience calls to mind the analysis of Jonathan Rauch in an article entitled “Amateur Hour” (The Atlantic, November 2015), from a year before the election. He wrote that Americans did not want as president “people who had zero elective experience.” He opined that a real break with the existing pattern would be the election of someone with no political experience at all. He noted Obama’s very limited political experience and that of the candidates only Ted Cruz could “match Obama’s exalted standard of unpreparedness.” Rauch expected amateurs to self-destruct.

That being said, Rauch recognized that this time around, the situation was different. He wrote:

That said, there has never been a tantrum quite like the one that ensued when a pompadoured, potty-mouthed billionaire shot to the top of Republican polls without being a Republican in any meaningful sense, and without possessing political experience in any sense at all, and without saying anything coherent or even intelligible, and without having any chance of winning the presidency.

With hindsight, we can easily observe the shortcoming of his analysis. Rauch was exactly right in his description of our immature child President and exactly wrong about what Americans wanted, especially given the shortcomings of his second-tier opponent foolishly extolled as the best prepared candidate ever. The American people did not yet see the truth.

Rauch continued with a ringing declaration that “the Donald is not, in fact, going to be president of the United States.” I recall reading one smugly silly Electoral College forecast just before the election where the learned voice-of-reason columnist sought to calm concerned people by confidently asserting there would be another Democratic victory comparable to the two triumphs of Obama. The blue states were a lock, many of the battleground states would be won, and some red states might even flip blue. The well-educated can be ignoramuses too. I confess that I too anticipated a meltdown which has yet to occur.

Rauch concluded his article with the claim that:

amateurism is a much better qualification for The Apprentice than for high political office. Being [a] fresh [candidate] is one thing. Half-baked is another.

Rauch’s prognostications for the election proved false but his depiction of our immature child president is spot on. In another article in the same issue of The Atlantic, Adam Goodheart writing about the Salem Witch Trials, offered this unexpectedly sage insight into the presidency today:

Almost anyone who has ever been 11 years old still knows how it feels to dwell in a world where…whole empires of fantasy are built amid the geography of the everyday…and where the ultimate prize is getting a crowded roomful of adults to pay attention. A preteen has little sense of the consequences for herself, much less for another person, let alone an entire village or province. What she does have, though, is an acute appreciation of the struggle for power―and, quite often, a well-honed skill at manipulating those who hold authority.

When our immature child president was an unruly disruptive 13-year old class smart-aleck-dumb-aleck, he was sent to military school in the vain hope that he would grow up. We live with the consequence of that failure. He remains skilled in manipulating We the People who hold authority. Not a majority of We the People, not a plurality of We the People, not even as many as Mitt Romney won after running the worst presidential campaign ever (how would he even know that?), but enough in the right places to win.

The question for the American people is at what point will We the People learn what Macho-Macho Man and the Republication representatives have seen for ourselves? At what point will the American people realize that Trumpcare targeted us for Worsecare? At what point will the American people realize that the Trump budget targets us for God-Awful Government? At what point will the American people realize that we have been flimflammed, conned, hustled, and slicked by an immature child whose dual goals are to be the center of attention and make rich people richer? Has the moment of seeing the ugliness of the Gorgan finally arrived? Probably not; after all, there is no Kirk to offer an alternative and no Lincoln either.

 

Image from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0065234/mediaviewer/rm3937245440

Getting to Know You: Familiarizing I LoveNY with You

“Getting to Know You” from The King and I

I LoveNY conducts familiarization tours. The purpose of these tours as one might expect is to familiarize tour operators with potential tourist destination sites in the state with the hope that they will organize tours to them. These familiarization tours involve bringing people to the actual locations and meeting the local staff who operate the facilities. Based on this first-hand exposure, the tour operators will be better able to plan and develop tours or so the theory goes.

Prior to the tourism convention in New York in January, I LoveNY conducted three familiarization tours to Central New York, Dutchess County, and Long Island.

New York State Division of Tourism is accepting applications for:

Pre-New York Times Travel Show FAM Tours for Travel Trade and Media

‘It’s All Here and It’s Only Here’ in New York State
January 24 – 26, 2017

Please see below for an opportunity to discover fascinating travel destinations in New York State.
Develop new travel packages and stories through the latest itinerary ideas all before attending the New York Times Travel Show.

Meals, accommodations, and transportation to and from New York City are included.
There is no cost to attend.

Applicants were asked to identify themselves as travel agent, tour operator, media, or other and to select from the three trips.

Space does not permit the full details of the tours. Remember, all tours leave from Manhattan. The places visited are provided below.

Central New York Familiarization Tour: Three Days
Day 1
1:00 pm Arrive in Binghamton
Endicott Visitors Center – Tour
Bundy Museum of History & Art – Tour
Carousel at Recreation Park – Ride
Lost Dog Café – Dinner
DoubleTree by Hilton – Overnight

Day 2
Classic Car Museum
Turning Stone Resort Casino – Turning Stone is a resort that features luxurious hotel accommodations, a full-service destination spa, gourmet restaurants, celebrity entertainment, five championship golf courses, a sportsplex, a dance club and bars and a world-class casino (table games, slots, poker and more). Currently, Turning Stone is undergoing several changes, upgrades and renovations and will be home to outlets in the future.
Fort Stanwix National Monument
Hotel Utica
Saranac Brewery /
OR
Utica Zoo
Overnight in Cooperstown

Day 3
National Baseball Hall of Fame
Fly Creek Cider Mill
Ommegang Brewery
Stop in one of: Fulton, Montgomery or Schoharie county.
Depart for NYC – arrive back at 5 PM

The detailed information is provided only for Turning Stone Resort Casino. Regular readers of my posts may recall that in January, 2016, I participated in a workshop at this site on behalf of the Oneida Nation.  One would scarcely know from the description in the familiarization tour that there was any connection between the casino as a resort and the Oneida.  This is consistent with the reality that there are no Indian Paths through History.  One also wonders if any attempt was made to create an extended visit such as a Utica Path through History, Rome Path through History, or Cooperstown Path through History, all of which are comparatively easy to do (not easy, work is involved!). Two of these locations also are Amtrak stops thus adding another dimension to the crafting of a seamless week-end or longer program for tourists.

Dutchess County Familiarization Tour: 3 Days
The Dutchess County tour is not itemized by day. Travel from New York was by train, presumably Amtrak, to the Poughkeepsie stop. No lodging information was provided. The last site listed is in Beacon where there is a Metro North train station. The places listed are:

Walkway over the Hudson (by the Poughkeepsie train station)
Culinary Institute of America (lunch?)
Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library & Museum and Home of FDR National Historic Site
Richard B. Fisher Center for Performing Arts at Bard College (evening performance?)
Staatsburgh State Historic Site
Rhinebeck – lunch and shopping
Crown Maple at Madava Farms
Millbrook Vineyards & Winery
Dia:Beacon

This familiarization tour contains several historic sites. There already is a bus shuttle from the Poughkeepsie train station to the Roosevelt complex so at the federal level such integration is operational. Based on the sites listed here one can easily see the potential for a Beacon Path through History, Poughkeepsie Path through History, Roosevelt Path through History, and Great Estates of the Hudson Path through History. There is no indication from the material presented whether any of these possibilities were explored during the familiarization process.

Long Island Familiarization Tour: Two Days
Day 1
Long Island Children’s Museum, Garden City
Vanderbilt Mansion & Planetarium
Long Island Museum of History Art and Carriages

Day 2: RIVERHEAD and the NORTH FORK
Long Island Aquarium & Exhibition Center
Baiting Hollow Winery and Horse Rescue
Wickham’s Fruit Farm
Greenport – including Maritime and LI Rail Road Museum
Harbes Family Farm
Catapano Dairy farm, Peconic

Nassau and Suffolk counties aren’t necessarily the first places one thinks of for history tours. Certainly the NPS site at Sagamore Hill, the home of Theodore Roosevelt from 1885 until his death in 1919, comes to mind. Then again there is the infamous ignorance of the American Revolution show on AMC about the spy network based in Setauket.  Exactly why Virginia advertises on a show set in Long Island to visit the sites of the American Revolution in Virginia while New York does not, has never been explained. There literally is no excuse for such an omission.

Based on this limited sample, no effort by I LoveNY to support the creation of actual paths or itineraries tour operators can create in support of New York State history appears to exist. This is consistent with the absence of funding in the REDC process for the Path through History and the absence of dedicated staff to this project. For example, where are the familiarization tours for:

American Revolution in New York (with and without Hamilton)
Erie Canal (now starting its bicentennial)
Hudson River Art
Immigration
Iroquois/Indian Nations
Underground Railroad
War of 1812 (northern New York is still part of the state and could use some help)
Women’s Suffrage (now in its centennial)?

As it turns out, Gavin Landry and Ross Levi will be the plenary speakers at the upcoming annual conference of the Museum Association of New York (MANY). Perhaps instead of presenting a useless and irrelevant press release about how great I Love NY has been for New York State tourism or providing a body count of isolated local events on Father’s Day and other times that generate no tourism, they could address issues that directly relate to the history community instead. How about an acknowledgement that I LoveNY really has not done such a good job meeting the needs of the history community and asking what it should do better to help:

  • Familiarization tours that support the development of paths through history
  • REDC funding that support the development of paths through history
  • Asking the TPA’s to convene county and regional meetings with the grassroots history community which I Love NY would attend.

Wouldn’t that be more useful?