I am humbled and honored to be New York’s 16th State Historian. It is certainly a privilege to have the opportunity to work with an amazing network of dedicated historians across the State to further the study, preservation, and celebration of New York’s unique and vital history.
The position of New York State Historian has a long history dating back to the first Historian being named in 1895. During the past 121 years, the State Historian has worn many hats; archivist and records collector, editor of historical collections, historical researcher and writer, preservationist, director of historic sites, museum curator, advocate for State and local history, and facilitator of a matrix of municipal, academic, and agency historians. It is a potentially daunting and multi-faceted position.
And, it is an incredibly important one. My strong belief is that the work of the State Historian, and the work of all local and academic historians, has the potential to literally change the world. A full critical understanding of our shared past provides the bedrock for a more complete understanding of where we are in the present and where we are going in the future. History provides the context and setting for the full comprehension of the very path our society is travelling. Without historical context, we as a society would be left blindly flailing in the darkness, unsure of where we have been and ignorant of where we are going.
Which is why the study and understanding of history is far more than just “nice to have;” it is essential to the functioning of a democratic society. Failure to encourage the study and understanding of history at all levels can only lead to an uninformed populace unable to contextualize why things are the way they are and, therefore, unable to make well-informed civic decisions. When we encourage the thoughtful study and understanding of history we are helping to create informed citizens able to take part in the democratic process.
It is with this serious understanding in mind that the NYS Education Department made the decision to separate the position of State Historian from that of Museum Curator and, for the first time in years, enabled the State Historian to do the office’s important work with 100% of their time and effort. I think this is a very positive step and I thank the Regents and the Commissioner of Education for taking it.
Moving forward, my plan is to work closely with the history community in the Empire State to ensure that the study, understanding and celebration of our shared past is prioritized at every level and that our State’s many dedicated Historians are supported in their work as much as possible. I plan on meeting with stakeholders across the State and have already been fortunate enough to attend the June Board Meeting of APHNYS as well as Bruce Dearstyne’s wonderful lecture aboard the Mohican on Lake George, which was sponsored by the Archives Partnership Trust. Plans are also underway for the celebration of New York State History Month in November. I look forward to speaking with the historical community to better understand the issues and realities and to seek solutions to strengthen the field.
Together, we can do so much to preserve, protect, and promote our state’s rich heritage. I ask you to join with me in this important endeavor—and please know—I am here as an advocate.
I can be reached at any time via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.