NYHIST-L Archives

October 1999


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Karen Engelke <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
A LISTSERV list for discussions pertaining to New York State history." <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 21 Oct 1999 14:30:28 -0400
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Although I very seldom answer broadcast e-mails, but the recent communication from Ian MacIver deserves comment.

To my knowledge, NYS rarely creates historic markers with public funds anymore.  Last year, however, as part of a state wide "Women's Hstory Celebration ", Gov. Pataki provided money to each county to commemorate special women in NY history. Each county has erected one sign to celebrate one outstanding woman with some connection to that particular county. Thanks to this initiative  there are 64 new state historic markers in place.   County and local historians worked together to chose the subject, write the text, and  locate the marker. Whether or not Pataki should be credited, it was a governor's initiative to fund this program.

As for other historic markers, in NYS anyone with $450 to pay for the fabrication can erect an historic marker. They all look official. New York's local historians have recently completed an inventory of still existing markers. Phil Lord of the NYS Museum History Survey is the "keeper" of this marker inventory. Whether or not the State Education Department, the original provider of the early markers, is a non-political agency--or should be--is left to others to determine. In my experience, those who provide the funds get to shape the purpose, and should get the credit. My advice to those who read the new markers is to reflect on the subject matter, not the funder's line.

In the meanwhile, over the next few years as we write our new regional interpretive signs on the Iroquois Confederacy, the American Revolution in the Mohawk Valley and the Erie Canal, our staff here at the Commission will be mindful of accurate and non-judgemental word choices. As these are funded in part by NYS, they, too, will give credit to the state for its contribution of public monies. I certainly hope when visitors and local residents read the material they will not dwell on the "currying of favors and thirst to garner votes" that may or may not have determined the site selections, but will appreciate the comprehensive information and graphics that helps them understand the landscape, events and people who helped shape the America we live in today.