Governor Cuomo issued a Press Release on November 2 launching the new “Path Through History” website. That alone was encouraging. But he did it “in recognition of New York State History Month.” This is the first time, so far as I know, that any governor has recognized NYS History Month, which has been on the statute books since 1997.
Governor Cuomo’s announcement also included statements from State Education Department Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia and State Museum Director Mark Schaming calling attention to museums and other cultural institutions throughout the state.
In recognition of New York State History Month, the Empire State Devlopment/I Love New York has launched a social media campaign for the month of November. Every day, I Love New York’s social media is posting a historical fact using the hashtag #NYSHistoryMonth.
The historical facts also appear on the I Love New York Facebook page.
I Love New York also has a New York History Events page
Just a few years ago, as posts on this New York History Blog have noted, History Month was unknown. I wrote about this in a post in 2012. The next year, then State Historian Bob Weible wrote in a post that he had not heard about State History Month until he read my post and, in turn, gave the idea high visibility in his own post here entitled “Is State History Month Dead?” where he also challenged the state’s historical community to make use of the month to call attention to state and local history.
That post seems to have set things in motion.
Now, the State Museum has a web page devoted to State History month, lists is own History Month events there, links to historical programs, and has created a downloadable State History Month logo. The Museum has also advanced suggestions for how teachers can incorporate History Month activities into their classroom.
The University Club Foundation in Albany is holding a second series of State History month activities, starting with a luncheon talk by Albany Mayor Cathy Sheehan on “Albany: Our History, Our Future” and including an award honoring WMHT Educational Communications for “Achievement in History in Culture,” the second year the award has been made during State History month. Of course, the annual Researching New York conference is being held again this November, another contribution to State History Month. Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site is sponsoring a special series of “Tuesday Talks” during State History Month. There are probably other events elsewhere in the state.
That represents a good start.
State History Month is designated in Section 57.02 of the Arts and Cultural Affairs Law. There, it says: “the purpose of this month shall be to celebrate the history of New York state and recognize the contributions of state and local historians.” That broad statement suggests lots of possibilities, building on the momentum of the past couple of years, for instance:
*Ask the Governor next year to issue a proclamation that emphasizes the service and role of the state’s hundreds of officially-designated local government historians and its hundreds of historical societies, history museums, and other community history programs.
* State History Month activities at each of the state’s historic sites
* A draft press or news release that local historians can use as a basis for getting local media coverage for State History Month (media representatives are often interested in local history events, particularly if they are tied to something bigger, in this case something designated in law).
* State History Month activities at local historical programs or, where appropriate, rebranding already-planned lectures, presentations, etc., as State History Month activities.
The law also says that “the commissioner of education, through the office of state history is hereby authorized to undertake projects to recognize New York state history month. Such projects may include the creation of an essay contest for state residents who are enrolled in any elementary or secondary education program which shall reflect upon the importance of New York state history….” That suggests the possibility of initiatives tied to social studies courses, particularly at Grades 4 and 7-8, where New York State is covered.
Finally, the resurgence of New York State History Month is more evidence of the importance of this New York History Blog. John Warren’s work in maintaining the blog and posting discussions about the value of State History Month, activities during it, and news about state and local history generally, are invaluable. Without that work, I believe, we would not be on an upward trajectory with State History Month.