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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 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 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 |

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

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

My Own History Advocacy Day in Albany

For my interview on Bob Cudmore's The Historians see below

Tourism Action Day occurred on March 12 this year, one week after Parks Advocacy Day. The sequence worked out well for me as I got to see some legislators twice in a very brief time.

Tourism Action Day was organized by the Tourist Industry Coalition. According to its website, the New York State Tourism Industry Coalition was formed in 1987. It is comprised of various association and industry–supporting organizations whose main goal is to represent the state’s tourism industry on key legislative and regulatory issues. It represents 22 tourism-related industry organizations throughout the state of New York including: Albany County CVB – Campground Owners of NY – Canal NY Marketing & Business Alliance – Dutchess Tourism Inc. – Finger Lakes Regional Tourism Council – Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance – Hotel Association of New York City – Ithaca/Tompkins County CVB – Long Island CVB & Sports Commission – MANY: the Museum Association of New York – NYC & Company – NYS Destination Marketing Organizations – NYS Hospitality & Tourism Association – NYS Restaurant Association – NYS Tourism Industry Association – Oneida County Tourism – Otsego County Tourism – Saratoga Convention & Tourism Bureau – Ski Areas of New York, Inc. – Sullivan County Visitors Association, Inc. – The Business Council of New York State, Inc. – Visit Syracuse.

On March 13, 2017, the Tourism Industry Coalition embarked on a two-year plan of remaking its Tourism Action Day into a reception/networking style event. I did not attend the event last year but did this year. In the past, there were display tables from some of the members. Not this year. In the past, I saw people from MANY including its lobbyist. Not this year. I am not sure if anyone represented cultural heritage tourism.


The morning program (costing $39 unlike the free Parks Advocacy program) consisted of various legislative, administrative, and tourist dignitaries. There was no mention of history tourism or the Path through History during the proceedings unlike previous years. Although history or cultural heritage tourism was not an identified topic for a speaker and was not mentioned at all, there were some issues that do relate to the history community.

Obviously the transportation infrastructure is critical. If we want people to visit historic sites as tourists, then it helps to have a good infrastructure for the potential travelers to and throughout the state. The opening of direct flights from Norway to Newburgh provides an opportunity to develop history tourist programs in the Hudson Valley to a European audience. Whether that will happen or not is another matter.

A second issue was staff. Historic sites like many tourist facilities often use summer help. Roughly speaking, the seasonal staff is available from July 4 to Labor Day due to school and maybe on weekends before and after. A proposed law to change the school year will affect the availability of high school students. Under the law, the total number of hours in the school year will remain the same but the obligation to have full-days is dropped. In other words, schools could schedule half-days. Two half days instead of one full day means one additional calendar day is needed. The more partial days a school schedules the longer the school year becomes. This means it could end later and/or begin earlier. That impacts summer staff. The Board of Regents will be debating the change for the upcoming 2018/2019 school year at its April 9-10 meeting.

One other unscheduled item occurred in talking to some upstate counties TPAs (Tourism Promotion Agents). They wondered what I was doing there since I am not in the tourist business. When I mentioned history tourism, they relayed to me how the Path through History program had undermined the programs they had been developing locally without replacing it with anything substantive. They had so little regard for the Path through History program I thought I was attending a history conference.

I add that a comment by one speaker about the infamous thruway signs that the Governor now has to remove brought a good laugh to the audience.


A big difference between the Parks Advocacy and Tourism Action Days is in the afternoon schedule. In the former, the schedule with the legislators is arranged, in the latter, we are on our own. The Tourism Advisory Council (TAC) did schedule a meeting for the afternoon. I sometimes attend those public meetings in New York and to the best of my knowledge over the past couple of years I am the only person not in the tourism business who has attended them. They will be the subject of a future post. After speaking with Cristyne Nichols, TAC chair, and Ross Levi, Executive Director of Tourism, Empire State Development, New York State Division of Tourism (aka I Love NY), I decided my time would be more productive meeting with legislators to discuss history tourism rather than attend the afternoon TAC meeting.

I meet with the staff from the following legislators: (the * means I also visited them as part of Parks Advocacy Day)

Senator Rich Funke who as chair of the Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation committee spoke at both advocacy days

Senator José Serrano who spoke at Parks Advocacy Day, attended the history roundtable in 2014 (A Report From The NYS History Commission Roundtable), and whom I wanted to talk to about Bronx programs and municipal historian regulatory changes

*Senator Terrence Murphy

*Assemblyman Tom Abinanti who made a special point to be there and expressed great interest in history especially the site of Andre’s capture in his own district

*Assemblywoman Didi Barret who is promoting the development of training people in craft skills to preserve old buildings and is a member of the Committee on Tourism, Parks, Arts and Sports Development

Assemblyman Steve Englebright who called the history roundtable meeting in 2014 and whose legislative director then is now the state historian

Assemblywoman Sandy Galef who has a great interest in the Croton Aqueduct

Assemblyman Dan O’Donnell who spoke at both advocacy days as the chair, Committee on Tourism, Parks, Arts and Sports Development

Assemblyman Steve Otis who is a member of the Committee on Tourism, Parks, Arts and Sports Development, my representative and we met on the floor of the Assembly.

In my opinion, these History Advocacy meetings went well but only as a first step. I made it clear that I was speaking for myself and had not in any way been designated to speak on behalf of the history community…since there is no mechanism by which to do that any way. We don’t ask so we don’t get.

I began my presentation with Turn, the AMC 4-season show about America’s first spy ring in the American Revolution and which has been the subject of previous posts (AMC Mocks the Path through History). The events of the show took place mostly in New York including in the hometown of Assemblyman Englebright. He and his staff are very aware of the missed opportunity by New York State. By that I mean in the four years of showing American Revolution events to millions of viewers never once did New York advertise to those people to come to New York and see the real places were the events occurred. INSTEAD VIRGINIA ADVERTISED ON THE SHOW ABOUT NEW YORK! When I met with AMC at a promotional event at the New-York Historical Society in 2017, they were more than willing to do promotion events in New York and have I Love NY advertising. The problem was when I spoke with them at the beginning of the viewing of Season 4, it was too late. The example of Turn turned out to be an excellent way to start the presentation. In some cases it was a literal eye-opener, I mean people opened their eyes wide on how New York had missed the boat to promote itself to a receptive national audience.

The followup to this opening was to ask suppose a person did see Turn and decided to come to New York to see the sites of the American Revolution, then what? At that point I showed them the blog I written in January about the new Civil Rights Trail in the South developed by teams consisting of their equivalents of the REDC, state tourist departments, and scholars. I referred to the various themes identified in our Path through History project, the buzz words of “cooperation and collaboration,” and the absence of exactly that, meaning the absence of teams producing itineraries for people interested in the American Revolution sites. Imagine if we had had such teams over the past few years creating these products.

I did mention familiarization tours (Getting to Know You: Familiarizing I Love NY with You). Except for one notable exception on the Dutch from Albany to Brooklyn, familiarization tours tend to be geographically based and not thematically based. History doesn’t always observe our political boundary lines. I Love NY does not have the staff with history expertise, has no one dedicated to the Path project, and has not hired consultants with that expertise. The big promotion items for Path through History are for local events that don’t generate revenue and were for events organizations already were doing. It’s more a branding event than a development event. I didn’t mention this in the briefings but at the morning session, the tourist people noted July and August as the big tourist months and the Path events occur in June and October during the school year. I also didn’t mention that Elderhostel/Road Scholars developed precisely such programs and I “borrowed” the name “Teacherhostel/Historyhostel” from them.

At this point in the 15-20 minutes presentation I segued into the human infrastructure issue – the municipal historians. This was a bit of stretch although the county historians should be working with the county TPAs. I used this connection to note the upcoming centennial on an action that still makes New York unique – having municipal historians in the first place. That it is an unfunded mandate with unclear responsibilities and no training. I mentioned the need for training in Albany at the State Museum, State Library, State Archives, State Historian, NYSOPRHP, I Love NY and the Education Department. I used this opportunity to raise the issue of the status of the municipal historian in the state.

I did leave with some specific asks as show below. One suggestion made to me was to have a resolution passed calling for a history advocacy day in the next session. This is something any legislator can initiate but it probably would be most effective if Senator Funke and Assemblyman O’Donnell did as the chairs in the two chambers. My suggestion is for another history roundtable to be held as Assemblyman Englebright did with the support of Senator Serrano in 2014. This time all the history constituencies would be invited and the meeting would be a springboard to developing an agenda of asks for History Advocacy in the next legislative session and for the legislature and gubernatorial election this year.

All in all, I think it was a productive day but only the first step with no guarantee that there would be a second one. Readers should feel me to share this information with their own elected legislators back in their communities without having to travel to the state capital.



1. Celebrate the centennial in 2019 of the legislation creating municipal historians in the state
2. Enforce compliance with the legislation in all municipalities
3. Define the responsibilities of the municipal historians based on the population of the municipality
4. Extend the law to include creating a New York City historian
5. Extend the law to create community district historians in New York City

Municipal historians should provide the local infrastructure for the creation of history tourism programs throughout the state.


1. Allocate $1 million of its REDC funding to the Path through History project or $100,000 for each of the ten regions
2. Create teams in partnership with the New York Historian for each of the themes in the Path through History following the format of the southern states in creating a U. S. Civil Rights Trail


Establish a $1 million REDC funding pool for history projects to include what used to be done through member items, for anniversaries such as the Suffrage Centennial, and other projects


Create a Senate and Assembly history caucus similar to the current effort in Congress. The caucus would aim to provide a forum for members to share their interest in history and to promote an awareness of the subject throughout the state. Start by calling for a history roundtable meeting.


For my recent podcast on Bob Cudmore’s The Historians where I spoke about history advocacy, click below