In 1919 New York State passed legislation to create an officially-appointed historian in every town, village, city, borough and county across the Empire State. It provided every municipality with a distinctly identifiable person whose duties would be to ensure that the history of that area was collected, preserved and used to promote the history and heritage of the communities of New York.
For the next sixty years, these historians worked independently with little ability to network. In 1971, a group of town, village and city historians banded together to form the Association of Municipal Historians of New York State (AMHNYS).
This group’s purpose was to promote training and professional standards for appointed historians, to encourage local support, to provide a forum for sharing ideas among historians, and to recognize the work of local historians. AMHNYS was incorporated as a non-profit organization in 1979.
Seven years later, in 1986, the County Historians Association of New York State (CHANYS) was created to mirror the municipal historians’ program for the sixty-two county historians. The two groups held separate conferences, workshops and pursued independent direction until 1999, when the boards of both groups agreed to merge the two organizations.
This new group became the Association of Public Historians of New York State (APHNYS) and was recognized by the New York State Board of Regents as the official group representing the needs and work of over 1,600 local government historians.
From its inception, the APHNYS’s priorities have been to raise the level of professionalism among the historians and to create a system that would allow the historians to receive the basic training and education needed to fulfill their responsibilities. The association divides the state into twelve regions, with a coordinator in each region. The coordinators oversee regional and statewide meetings, conferences, and training events.
The Upper Hudson Historic Federation (UHHF) was formed when historians of Essex, Hamilton, Saratoga, Warren and Washington counties met in November of 1970 to create a mutually beneficial federation. With the formation of AMHNYS, the federation became Region II of AMHNYS, but continued to operate under the UHHF name. By the 1999 merger of AMHNYS and CHANYS, the UHHF had been phased out as a separate organization.
The Association will be holding its annual conference September 18-20, 2023 in Ithaca. For more information, including registration and a complete schedule, can be found here.
Photo courtesy New York State Association of Public Historians.