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Upcoming History Advocacy, Conferences and Events

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 2 Historic Districts Council Preservation Conference (Manhattan)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I attended last year and wrote a blog about it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To register go to MANY

TBD Conference on New York State History

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

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

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

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

Plans for the future are unclear.

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

NYSOPRHP Advocacy

On March 5, I participated in Park Advocacy Day in Albany. The event was organized by Parks & Trails New York. As you might suspect, even though the term “Historic Preservation” is contained within the name NYSOPRHP, the state organization also is responsible for 35 historic sites as was mentioned several times during the course of the presentations. That being said, I don’t recall any specific site being mentioned nor any program or advocacy geared towards those sites. The advocacy day was for parks and trails and also open spaces (Open Space Institute was a cosponsor).

In the language of the sessions, what are the takeaways from this advocacy as it relates to the history community?

PARKS ADVOCACY DAY IS AN EXAMPLE OF WHAT THE HISTORY COMMUNITY SHOULD BE DOING

In this instance, an advocacy group headquartered in Albany organized a day of meetings between park advocates from around the state and legislators to discuss specific “asks” related to the upcoming budget. I think the free registration was about 75 people but the actual turnout may have been less.

The registrants arrange themselves by Park regions which are different from REDC and I LoveNY regions. I am in the Taconic group for east of the Hudson and not in the Hudson Valley or Lower Hudson Valley region which encompasses both sides of the river. There is a team leader. In the past the person has been from Scenic Hudson which has its own parks lobbying effort for this region; this time the person was from Parks & Trails while Scenic Hudson led the Palisades group west of the Hudson. There were 12 people listed for our group with three no-shows and two additions from Walkway over the Hudson which encompasses both sides of the river. Two of the people were from Open Space Institute as representatives from that organization were scattered among the 11 regions. NYSOPRHP also has 11 regional park commissions and had scheduled a meeting with the commissioners from each region for the following day. I don’t know if those meetings are open to the public or not. In our group, we had a commissioner for the Taconic region.

In the afternoon, we me with eight legislators in a series a rapid sessions. By legislator, this normally means a member of the legislator’s staff. The legislators included representatives from both the Senate and the Assembly. Parks & Trails schedules the meetings. They generally last about 15 minutes. As it turns out, a lot can be presented in 15 minutes. Needless to say, we were not the only ones wandering around the corridors of the legislative buildings. Other lobbying groups were easily identified by their shirts, bags, or uniforms. We had green scarfs. Some groups like teachers and libraries, both chartered by the Education Department as are historical societies and museums, turn out in huge numbers. They can overwhelm the place.

The individual sessions can be very cut and dry. Each session started with the team leader identifying the “asks.” In our case, the process was pretty straightforward. We were asking for items already in the budget and which these elected officials had supported in the past. It’s not like guns, abortions, or immigrants. Two of the asks directly related to historic sites although not couched in those terms.

One program with a $500,000 statewide budget is to support local Friends groups within the NYSOPRHP system. Previously, I have written a blog about “Friends with Benefits,” the private organizations that take up the slack for what the state does not do at NYSOPRHP historic sites. I wrote about some individual historic sites. Of course, not all historic sites have friends groups and the financial resources of these groups varies. This program is open to the friends groups of any NYSOPRHP and is not limited to the 35 historic sites.

A second program is called “Connecting Kids to Parks.” It has a $1 million budget to pay up to $1000 for the field trip costs to visit NYSOPRHP sites. In a way, it is somewhat like what the Museum Education Act proposed by MANY will do for any museum site. Actually, the listing of sites eligible for funding of school visits isn’t limited to an NYSOPRHP location.  For example, one history site is listed: the Chittenango Landing Canal Museum. A few non-state nature sites are included: Maurice D. Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center, Montezuma Audubon Center, and Constitution Marsh Audubon Center and Sanctuary. While these are all legitimate venues, one doesn’t need to be a rocket scientist to recognize that they are included in the NYS Connecting Kids to Parks program because of their political juice.

WHERE ARE THE HISTORY SITES?

The absence of history sites was manifest in the morning presentations. One handout, legislator, and speaker after another extolled the benefits of the NYS parks system to the economy of the state and the wellbeing of its citizens. I do not intend to dispute anything that was said, only note the absence of the historic sites in the discussions.

For example, one major highlight is the $900 million capitalization program for 2015-2020. A handout identified 16 items in the 2017 capital budget. All were recreational and nature oriented. Perhaps the list was compiled with this particular audience in mind and one wonders about the capital funding for historic sites.

The situation was made clear in the presentation by Rose Harvey, the Commissioner of the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. The first item she mentioned was Jones Beach. The second place she discussed was Niagara Falls. When she came to the end of her talk she said “Finally…” and mentioned one history-related item – the expiring tax credit for historic preservation. This item has been a major advocacy item for the preservation groups and will not be discussed here (note – there is a preservation conference in Albany in April). Perhaps at a different conference Rose would have spoken more about the state of the 35 New York State history sites for which she is responsible. Which conference? And what are the asks of her in that capacity?

The next day, New York State and Parks & Trails New York has announced $450,000 in state grants to 21 organizations dedicated to the stewardship and promotion of New York State parks, historic sites and public lands. Parks & Trails administers a funding stream from the Environmental Protection Fund separate from the REDC funding. As part of the packet attendees received there was a list of the awardees from 2015 and 2016. Examining the lists is of interest. I will focus only on the history-related ones from 2017 and 2016 as best I can determine them. In any event, I suspect many people in the history community are not aware of this funding source and should investigate it. Contact Sarah Braymer at grants@ptny.org or check out the ptny.org website.

2017 [from a press release]

Capital Region

Friends of Clermont: $4,000 to create a planned giving program to raise funds to provide more programs, including marketing materials, a planned giving and named endowment policy, and training for the board of trustees.

The Friends of U.S. Grant Cottage: $19,500 to provide critical administrative support and focus on acquiring and maintaining sustainable income sources for the organization.

Central Region

Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum: $20,400 to create a new education program entitled “The Story of the Water STEM Program: Erie Canal Connections.” The program will allow the museum to research water systems related to the Erie Canal and create STEM educational programming. Additional components of the new STEM program will be a summer STEM camp, and a “Story of the Water” series of talks. The new education program will enable visitors to explore how humans impact the canal water system today.

Finger Lakes Region

Friends of Ganondagan: $50,000 to fund the restoration and replacement of the Seneca Bark Longhouse roof using new, “flexbark/Elm Bark” roofing panels. The exiting roof is leaking and the new roof is necessary and critical to ensure the viability of the Seneca Bark Longhouse structure, and safety of the artifacts, reproductions, and interpretive materials housed within.

Long Island Region

Mid-Hudson Region

Friends of Mills Mansion: $48,000 to fund the purchase of historically-accurate, custom-made fabric, trim, and as well as decorative trim, tie-backs and hanging hardware needed to reproduce the historic draperies in Staatsburgh’s formal dining room. These will replace the existing drapes that have been hanging for over 100 years and are in very poor condition.

Friends of The Old Croton Aqueduct: $27,200 to cover the cost of a coordinator to support the needs of the recently opened Keeper’s House Education and Visitor Center. The coordinator will develop and manage the volunteer docent program, including recruiting new volunteers to assist with all the activities at the Center and improve the visitor’s experience.

Mohawk Valley Region

Friends of Johnson Hall: $9,905 for of a historic floor cloth, a “painted carpet” for the Front Hallway of Johnson Hall State Historic Site. This reproduction floor cloth will help protect the original wooden floor from heavy wear by visitors, and will complete the restoration of the decorative finishes on the first floor of this site. Funds will also be used to produce a detailed color booklet, postcards and a website update to summarize all the restorations projects that have been competed or are underway.

New York City Region

North Country Region

Western New York Region

2016 [from a handout]

Central Region – $34, 231

Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum $5,798 for an education/visitor experience intern to study, document, research and host tours, produce a general Chittenango Landing tour, and create materials and videos for PR and museum education

Finger Lakes Region – $37,364

Friends of Ganondagan $19,239 to hire a program assistant to develop interpretive programming and events that feature Iroquois White Corn from an agricultural, traditional and food perspective

Genesee Region – $41,310

Long Island Region – $67,535

Friends of Connetquot $17,535 to develop new educational programs for the Mill Museum, videos, and brochures to complement the completion of the Nicol Grist Mill restoration

Walt Whitman Birthplace Association $25,000 to modernize exhibit space

New York City Region – $25,000

Niagara Region – $25,000

Saratoga/Capital Region – $78,000

Friends of Schuyler Mansion $30,000 for two reproduction Brussels carpets

John Brown Lives – $48,000 to hire the organization’s first paid employee for a part-time position to support the John Brown Farm State Historic Site

Taconic Region- $107,085

Friends of Philpse Manor Hall $14,875 to purchase audio-visual equipment and hire consultants for an oral history project at Philipse Manor State Historic Site

Thousand Islands Region – $39,475

Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum is an obvious favorite for grants as with “Connecting Kids.” It also was the recipient of a $45,625 grant in 2015 to upgrade the position of Executive Director from part-time to full-time to better serve the educational needs of the area and boost tourism. How many history organizations would love to have a grant like that?! Ironically that Executive Director recently left the position for one in the Oneida Community Mansion House. I am unable to determine from the website if she has been replaced.

I conclude this post with three takeaways:

  1. Parks & Trail New York provides one model for history community to emulate for a statewide organization and advocacy.
  2. Historic preservation is area worth investigating for its own organizations and advocacy efforts.
  3. History community asks for NYSOPRHP need to be developed following an analysis of what it is doing and should be doing.