It’s been a very good year for history in New York. The state’s historians, archivists, educators, preservationists, and curators have, over the course of the past twelve months, coordinated their efforts and raised public awareness of New York’s history as never before. And now, as November approaches, it’s clear that History Month is going to make a good year even better.
There will indeed be more and better History Month programming taking place all across New York in 2014 than in recent years. And thanks to the New York State Museum, a program of the New York State Board of Regents and State Education Department, there’s even a History Month logo to help unite and brand all of the state’s History Month programs. Any historical or cultural organization offering November history programs can—and should—use the logo. It’s easily available. Just grab the logo above, or e-mail Bridget Enderle at firstname.lastname@example.org for a higher resolution copy.
The New York Council for the Humanities has been especially active in supporting History Month this year. The Council is funding efforts by the Association for Public Historians and the William T. Pomeroy Foundation to improve the state of historical markers in New York, as well as working with the State Museum and others to develop public programs on the subject of New York’s foodways. Also, The Council is extending the scope of its popular Speakers in the Humanities Program to allow one extra booking for organizations that sponsor a November Speakers program (programs are normally limited to two annual programs for each host site). Currently, the Council lists more than 50 presentations addressing New York topics such as “The History of Music in Buffalo,” “Ciudad y Suburbia: The Changing Nature of Latino Immigration,” “Robert Moses and His Long Island Legacy,” and much more.
Good news from Ithaca, too. Cornell University Press is making all of its New York State history titles available at a 30% discount in November. Simply use the discount code NEW30 when ordering from the press’s website or mention the code when ordering from the customer service line (1-800-666-2211).
Private organizations are getting involved, as well. This year, for the first time, Albany’s University Club will be hosting a number of public History Month presentations featuring historians (scholar-activist Barbara Smith), museum professionals (Thomas Carroll, Hudson Mohawk Industrial Gateway), artists (Len Tantillo), public officials (Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan), and others.
I’m especially pleased to say that my own organization, the State Museum, is offering an array of November programs in recognition of New York State History Month. Leading the list is the opening of a major exhibition, entitled “The Shakers: America’s Quiet Revolutionaries”. The exhibition, organized in partnership with Hancock Shaker Village, the Shaker Heritage Society, and the Shaker Museum | Mount Lebanon, will be more than the usual decorative arts exhibit. It will bring together—for the first time ever—the collections of the four sponsoring organizations, explore the lives of the Shakers, and explain how the Capital Region of New York became a center of Shaker life and history.
Also on the History Month program schedule at the State Museum is the long-awaited book signing for the exhibition catalogue “An Irrepressible Conflict: The Empire State and the Civil War”. The event will include a presentation by renowned Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer. In addition, we’ll have presentations on the Erie Canal, the Great Migration, and the Museum’s very popular carousel (this year marking its 100th anniversary).
Programs traditionally scheduled for November will continue. The highly regarded conference, “Researching New York,” will, for example, be holding its annual meeting at the University at Albany on November 20-21. This year’s program is focused on the theme “Identities in New York: Imagining, Constructing, Exploring.” Especially noteworthy is a keynote address by acclaimed historian Richard Norton Smith. Smith is the author of the recently released On His Own Terms: A Life of Nelson Rockefeller, the first complete biography of New York’s famous governor.
I suppose it’s fair to say, given the progress we’ve seen this year, that every month is History Month in New York State. Take June, for example, when New York’s history community came together at the annual Conference on New York State History. The conference doubled its usual attendance by drawing more than 400 people to Marist College in Poughkeepsie, where attendees were treated to presentations on the latest historical research and best practices. The New York State Historical Association (NYSHA) gets the lion’s share of the credit for making all of this possible, but it could not have done so without the very active support of a number of partners  and a planning committee consisting representatives from many of the state’s outstanding professional history organizations .
This year’s History Month presents an exciting schedule of new and traditional programs. Next year will be better. And the one after that better still. Just keep in mind, however, that a revitalized History Month is not an end in itself. Like June’s Conference on New York State History, History Month is only another step in strengthening the state history community and raising New Yorkers’ appreciation of the value and power of their history.
As State Historian, I greatly appreciate the ideas many of us have had over the years for drawing national attention to New York State as a model for appreciating, understanding, and enjoying state history and making it a more usable part of people’s lives. The time for well-intentioned talk is ending, however, and the time for delivering more meaningful programs and events has come. Together we share an important public service mission, and together we can promote better history education among classroom and adult audiences, elevate the quality of life in our communities, and help develop the state’s economy. Let’s keep on doing it.
 Sponsoring organizations included the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, the Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site, the Hudson River Valley Institute at Marist College, the New York Humanities Council, the New York State Archives Partnership Trust, the New York State Museum, and the Office of the Dutchess County Historian.
 The committee included representatives of the Association of Public Historians of New York State, the Center for Applied Historical Research, the Cooperstown Graduate Program, the Hudson River Valley Institute at Marist College, the Museum Association of New York, the New York Academy of History, the New York Council for the Humanities, the New York State Archives Partnership Trust, the New York State Council for Social Studies, the New York State Museum, and the New York State Office for Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation. Two independent scholars and a museum director rounded out committee membership.