News and Event Updates from the Office of the Orange County Historian

The Changing Profession of Public History
This week I came across an article about Joe Bagley, the 31-year-old archaeologist who has been put in charge of one million mostly un-cataloged City of Boston artifacts. Underpaid and overburdened, he's found ways to triage the projects that come at him each day. He has to be a historian, a fundraiser, a bureaucrat, a volunteer coordinator, a social media guru, an artifact guardian, a cheerleader for preservation, a meticulous registrar, and a broad minded strategic planner, all at the same time.
You're not alone, Joe. This has become the narrative of the post-recession workplace. It's like a reality TV premise: we give you poverty level pay and a mountain of responsibility, and expect you to turn this organization around with your Hipster ingenuity. I see it so often that I've started to refer to it as the martyr-hero motif.
But it's important to put things in perspective: this is not Joe vs. Wild or Indiana Joe on a grand mission. Joe, as a metaphor for the generation, is up against those who direct funds but continually decide not to invest in cultural resource management.
And if Boston seems distant please reflect for a moment on the news this week from Albany that our new New York State Historian will inherit a role that has suffered salary and hierarchy reductions. I worry that we're casting Devin Lander to be our Joe.
Post-Recession Management Decisions Changed the Field

I first entered the public history profession as a teenager with a full-time summer job as a tour guide. This position was in the NYS Parks system, which meant that I was able to receive health insurance, accrue vacation hours, and contribute towards retirement benefits. There was promise that hard work would lead to opportunities in collections care, interpretive assistance, or research. But by 2008, the recession hit and the site's ten full-time employees were reduced to three. The quality of educational programs and public tours suffered.

As is representative of museums and historical institutions across the country, the State sites lost their middle management and their specialists. For a short time, operations can continue this way. The investments made in the past mean that the victims of the reductions have the expertise to do more with less. But as these properly trained individuals leave for careers elsewhere, the reduced roles are filled by interns and volunteers who treat the work like a hobby, or by struggling professionals who are scattering their energy across multiple jobs. As the quality of the experience declines, managers lean harder on tech solutions to automate audience interactions and bring in volunteer greeters to be the face of their organizations. Repeat audiences dwindle. Once institutional knowledge is lost, the new guard forgets that quality employees were once the core of their public value.

Decision makers have become blind to a simple truth: hiring professionals and equipping them with the resources they need - and paying them enough to support their families without side jobs - would take cultural institutions out of the revenue decline tailspin that they use as a scapegoat for the lack of support.

There's no need to justify the economic and community impacts of the work that heritage professionals engage in because it is evident in numerous studies including one conducted last year in Dutchess County and in the research routinely compiled by organizations like the National Council On Public History and The American Alliance of Museums. The sites, archives and programs related to cultural resources are not lacking an audience as often as the personnel of humanities work are lacking appropriate tools to connect with the audience.
The Problem Is Affecting Historians of All Generations

Whereas a policy of attrition has characterized government run sites, which are often managed by Parks professionals; it is manifesting itself in a slightly different way in the non-profit sector where historical programming is the central mission. In museums, the cuts are affecting the Millennials at the beginning of their careers as they try to make the leap from working several part-time museum jobs - often with more prestigious degrees than their bosses - to running things without any middle management experience when those bosses retire.
But in the non-profit realm, the pressure is also affecting the careers of the Boomer generation. As managers realize that they can tap into the martyr-hero motif, they eliminate seasoned staff who are used to reasonable pay and professional resources. They are replaced with two or more Millennials who are desperate for any title that will give them a foot in the door. I call this the "epidemic of the directors" because many museums today are trying to attract talent not with fair pay, but by offering Millennials the stepping stone they need most: a resume-worthy title.
I see it everywhere I look. The Director of Education is actually a minimum wage tour-guide that's expected to be a curriculum expert. The Director of Public Relations is actually a part-time social media coordinator. And the Director of Strategy is acting CEO, with all the demands but half the pay of the former Executive Director. Being sensitive to these conditions makes it more obvious why programming and audience outreach seems schizophrenic to the public.
The Lines Between Public and Academic Historians Seems Blurred
There's another component to the changes that have occurred in the field of Public History in this last decade. As the reductions in opportunities have forced specialists away from the workplace, they sought higher education with the hope to make themselves more marketable for management positions. Meanwhile as academic historians have suffered from their own set of post-recession problems, they began to look for Public History positions as a "Plan B" after receiving PhD's. This has fed the ranks of the educated Millennials in the field. As a result, historians from both the public and academic realms have survived by taking on adjunct teaching gigs. This is merely a life raft. The end is already evident in the recent American Historical Association report that there is officially a decline in incoming history majors.
The question remains to be answered whether this is the beginning of a long-term market correction that will include the closure of a swath of museums and institutions, whether the field will reorient towards a consultant-freelance style of service or something altogether new. What is certain is that educating our lawmakers and elected managers about the importance of investing in our cultural resources can mean the difference between a thriving or failing community.
Our Local Situation Is Better Than Most
Under the Orange County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus and current Orange County Legislature there is positive action towards protecting historical resources, harnessing the potential of each community's unique cultural narratives and ensuring that County staff are given the tools necessary to serve the public's interests. The following list is a reminder of some of the actions that have benefited the County's historical resources in that past two years.
-       The 1841 Courthouse in Goshen was renovated in 2015. In April of 2016 the Office of the Orange County Historian and the archives of the Orange County Genealogical Society were reopened to the public. The Orange County Tourism Office was moved into the Annex building next door to the Courthouse creating a one-stop location for members of the public seeking information.
-       In 2015 the Orange County Legislature authorized a Capital Plan to direct funds towards the restoration and interpretation of County-owned historical properties. This year the $25,000 has been allocated to plan for the restoration of the Algonquin Park powder mill ruins.
-       Through the Office of the Orange County Historian, officials have invested in Heritage Tourism initiatives such as the "Historic Tavern Trail" which was founded in Orange County in 2015 and has grown into a regional phenomenon that attracts dollars to our local economies while showcasing and honoring examples of preservation in the private sector.
-       In 2014 the Orange County Legislature passed Resolution #89 to create a Cultural, Historic, Artifact Advisory committee. This committee brings several departments and members of the historical community together to address the County Collections Policies.
-       The Orange County Parks Commissioner is collaborating with the Office of the Orange County Historian to develop a long-term Capital Plan to fund the preservation of County-owned Historic Structures.
The policies and investments of Orange County Government have a long way to go before we are able to address all of the needs of our local historical communities but we have much to be proud of. So although this article points to many examples of dysfunction in the cultural resource landscape, I hope that it will help highlight the importance of evaluating the structure, chain-of-command and job expectations of those tasked with heritage management in public, non-profit and academic spheres.

  Johanna Yaun
                                                                                                   Orange County Historian
Social Media for Historians and Museum Professionals Workshop

The Orange County Historian's office will host a free workshop open to anyone who would like to improve their organization's social media efforts. The discussion will be led by the Vice-President of the Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society, Nicole Scholet de Villavicencio. Bring a laptop if you'd like to follow along and troubleshoot with the participants. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016 2 PM - 4 PM 
22 Wells Farm Rd, Goshen, New York 10924
Tavern Trail Series Continues
Join the ongoing journey to Orange County's most historic inns and restaurants as the 2016 Historic Tavern Trail of the Hudson Valley visits Port Jervis, New York on Friday, May 27.  A cross promotion between Orange County history, tourism and economic development, the "Tavern Trail" happy hour and dinner events feature local food, a specialty Tavern Trail cocktail, and friendly discussions of local history in a relaxed atmosphere.
The Historic Tavern Trail of the Hudson Valley event series continues at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, May 27th at the Erie Hotel & Restaurant, 9 Jersey Avenue, Port Jervis, New York, right next to the restored Erie Depot and Railway Express Agency buildings. Built in 1890, the Erie Hotel is an original "railroad hotel" that once served weary Erie Railroad travelers visiting Port Jervis.   Historical features include an elaborate carved wood and mirror bar and dozens of historical photographs of Port Jervis scenes.  The Brink family purchased the Hotel in 1986 and restored it in 1994, including the upstairs hotel rooms for those who want to stay the night for an authentic experience! 
The event kicks off at 5:30 p.m. with a "history happy hour."  "Guests will meet new friends, learn more about historic places, and try the 'Apple Jack Downing' a new signature cocktail featuring local ingredients," says Orange County Historian Johanna Yaun.  At 6:00 p.m. the evening's entertainment will include a short talk on Port Jervis railroad history by historian Bob McCue, who will answer the question, "What IS a 'railroad hotel,' anyway?"  Dinner reservations are required for those staying for dinner at 7:00 p.m.  For information, directions and reservations, call 845.858.4100. 

Link to the  Erie Hotel website here and Menu here.    
History In The News

Upcoming Events
Revolutionary Era Blacksmithing in Fort Montgomery

Saturday, May 21 at 10 AM - 4 PM

Join us for a day-long presentation of 18th century blacksmithing. Watch master blacksmiths hand forge nails, hooks, and more. Learn how blacksmithing played a critical role in the American Revolutionary War effort right here at Fort Montgomery!

Fort Montgomery State Historic Site
690 Route 9W, Fort Montgomery, New York 10922

UFO Fair in Pine Bush

Saturday, May 21 at 10 AM - 4 PM

Join us for a day-long presentation of 18th century blacksmithing. Watch master blacksmiths hand forge nails, hooks, and more. Learn how blacksmithing played a critical role in the American Revolutionary War effort right here at Fort Montgomery!

Main Street 
Pine Bush NY 12566

Civil War Weekend at Brick House

Saturday, May 21 & May 22

You're invited to come and talk to the soldiers about their lifestyle as you tour the Union and Confederate camps. Join us for a narrated Candlelight tour on Saturday night and witness for yourselves the evening camp life of Union and Confederate Soldiers. Plenty of activities and scenarios are planned, so bring the whole family out for a great fun filled, educational weekend.

850 Rt. 17K
Montgomery, NY

Lecture at Deerpark Museum

Frank Salvati's lecture "Red Cloud's War" and kick off announcement of the "Ride into History" Deerpark Road Rally.

25 Grange Rd.
Huguenot, NY 12746

Antique Tractor Pull at the Orange County Farmer's Museum

Concession on site, free admission. Antique Tractor Pull on the grounds of the Brick House Museum.

850 Rt. 17K
Montgomery, NY 

John Brown History Day at St. George's Church in Newburgh

St. George's Church coordially invites you to join us as we celebrate the birthday of Rev. John Brown, a major figure in the history of Newburgh who served as Rector of St. George's for 64 years!

From 1-4 PM, come for a tour of the church, find out about our restoration plans. View our Tiffany windows. Stay for a cake reception around the corner at John Brown's historic home, 114 First Street, from 2 - 4:30 PM 

105 Grand Street
Newburgh, NY 12550

Call 845-561-5355 for more info.
Mansion of the Gilded Age Symposium at Lyndhurst in Tarrytown

The Symposium will feature six esteemed speakers on topics of Gilded Age architecture, interior design, fashion, jewelry, travel, and society.  The Symposium will be followed by a cocktail reception in the mansion tower (separate ticket).  Half-price mansion tour tickets are available with purchase of a symposium ticket.


10:00 am Gary Lawrance, Architect, Author and Historian
Houses of the Hamptons 1880-1930

11:00 am Robert B. King, Author/Photographer and Historian
Lost Vanderbilt Homes along Fifth Avenue

12:00 pm Ulysses Dietz, Chief Curator of Newark Museum
Elegance and Aspiration: Money, Taste and Jewelry in America's Gilded Age

1:00 pm Lunch break
Lunch available from Red Barn Bakery in the Lyndhurst carriage house courtyard.

2:00 pm Caroline Rennolds Milbank, Fashion Historian
Fashion in an Age of Extravagance
Whether at a watering hole, aboard a yacht, on the grand tour, being presented to society or married off to a European title; gilded age fashion existed at the point where etiquette, elegance and extravagance intersect.

3:00 pm Walter G. Ritchie, Jr.,  Decorative Arts Specialist and Architectural Historian
Luxury and Economy in the Gilded Age: The Suckleys Furnish Wilderstein
The lecture will address how Robert Suckley and his wife, Elizabeth Montgomery Suckley, filled the rooms of their stylishly refurbished Hudson Valley residence with primarily medium quality furniture purchased for an earlier home while simultaneously embracing the Gilded Age's standards of luxury by ordering expensive and opulent furniture from several of the leading cabinetmaking and decorating firms of the period.

4:00 pm Leighton Hammond Coleman III, Spedden Family Archivist
The World of Daisy Corning Stone Spedden: Edwardian Diarist, Titanic Survivor and Children's Book Author

5:00 pm Wine and cheese reception, Lyndhurst observation tower
Conclude the Mansions of the Gilded Age symposium with a wine and cheese reception in the newly restored Lyndhurst observation tower. The tower offers spectacular views of Manhattan and the Tappan Zee Bridge.  No handicapped access.   Tower access requires climbing five flights of stairs.

Symposium tickets $20.
Half price mansion tour tickets are also available with purchase of symposium tickets.  You will receive a coupon code upon checkout.
Tower reception tickets $15.

635 South Broadway  
Tarrytown ,   NY   10591
Tavern Trail at Erie Hotel in Port Jervis

Friday, May 27 at 5:30 PM - 7 PM

The next stop on the Tavern Trail is at an authentic railroad hotel. Author and historian Robert McCue will give a short talk about the location. Toast with an Apple Jack Downing, the signature drink of the summer, 

Erie Hotel Restaurant 
9 Jersey Ave, Port Jervis, NY 12771

Zerbini Family Circus at Museum Village

May 27 at 7 PM to May 30 at 7 PM

Come To The Best in Family Circus Entertainment!  Jugglers, High Flyers, High Wire, Camels, Clowns & More... Purchased Tickets are good for any show!

1010 Route 17M, Monroe, New York 10950

Local Opinion
What do you think is the most underutilized historical resource in Orange County?

"One of the most underutilized and I think fascinating historic resources is Washington's Headquarters in Newburgh.  This is the first publicly owned historic site in the nation and a great place to experience the history of the American Revolution.  Imagine that George Washington spent a good amount of time here, planning out the battles that would ensure this country's freedom!  We sometimes forget that Newburgh played an important part in our country's history.  I particularly enjoy the views of the Hudson River from the site, and after a visit, my family and I will visit one of the restaurants across the street, and the juice bar for a healthy drink. It's a way to celebrate where we live, and support local business." 
                                                                         Terrie Goldstein
Publisher, Hudson Valley  Parent Magazine
On The Scene
Hosted by the Dutchess County Historian William P. Tatum III, the 2nd Annual Hudson Valley History Fair was held at Locust Grove on May 1st. Participants from museums, historical societies and regional advocacy groups gathered to exchange information and meet with the public.
Orange County Historian | Goshen, N.Y. |  845-545-7908 |  jyaun 
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