Alcatraz Island Exhibit at Ellis Island Museum

Every year only 1.5 million people can visit Alcatraz Island, but the demand to see the historical landmark is twice that. New Yorkers now have the chance to see what “The Rock” was like with the opening of Alcatraz: Life on The Rock, a traveling exhibit that tells the legendary story of Alcatraz Island, at the Liberty National Monument’s Ellis Island Museum of Immigration. The 2,800 square-foot modular exhibit of artifacts and interactive displays runs until Jan. 12, 2012 on the third floor of the Grand Hall.

Created by Alcatraz Cruises in partnership with the National Park Service (NPS), the 2,800 square-foot modular exhibit features authentic artifacts and recreated areas of the prison. Visitors enter the exhibit through a Civil War Sally Port to a touchable model of the island and can then explore four eras of the island’s history: “Preserving the Rock,” “Strength: The Native American Occupation,” “Life on the Inside,” and “Military History.” Murals, video clips and memorabilia help bring to life other historical elements of the island such as its role as a military prison, the Native American occupation of 1969–71, Alcatraz’s depiction in pop culture and the island’s lush flora and fauna. Visitors can also get an inside look at the infamous federal prison, operated from 1934–1963.

Guests can visually experience life inside the prison by looking through a mock tunnel, similar to the one dug by prisoners attempting escape, and by searching for Civil War era etchings in a recreated prison wall. The exhibit features several rare, authentic artifacts, including an original letter written by Robert “Birdman” Stroud, a blood-smeared baseball from the Alcatraz exercise yard, a butter knife turned weapon and a cookbook that the Alcatraz Women’s Club sold to families on the island.

Admission is included with all Statue Cruises tickets to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, and is only accessible by ferry during operating hours.

To purchase tickets, visit www.statuecruises.com. Museums interested in booking the Alcatraz: Life on the Rock exhibit can learn more by calling Denise Rasmussen at (415) 438-8320.

New iPhone Tours Relate Immigrant Experiences

Past Preservers and Crimson Bamboo have launch two new historical walking tours related to New York History for Rama, an app for the iPhone. The first explores the construction of the Statue of Liberty- the second that takes you through the immigrants’ ordeal of Ellis Island. Both were written by Hannah Murray.

“From disembarkation to medical inspection to entrance into the land of opportunity (or, for the unlucky or politically unpalatable few, deportation back home), Hannah Murray’s Ellis Island shows this place as the hopeful immigrants who arrived her experienced it,” stated Michael Carroll, co-founder of Crimson Bamboo, the creator of the Rama app. “The tour recreates on your iPhone the history of this point of entry for the aspiring immigrants to whom over 40% of Americans trace their ancestry.”

Ellis Island is the sequel to Murray’s Land of Liberty tour, which captures the history and idealism behind the construction of the nearby Statue of Liberty. For $1.99 the tour continues to explore the theme of distinctive sites symbolic for Americans and their heritage, and the stories of the thousands of individuals who left the Old World for the New. It is illustrated with thought provoking and evocative contemporary archival photographs.

“I have been captivated by Ellis Island ever since I visited New York nine years ago,” explained Murray, who has previously worked as a volunteer at the Benjamin Franklin House in London, as well as at the British Museum. She describes history as her passion above all others and will shortly be taking a Masters degree in Public History at Royal Holloway. “I have studied the immigrant experience at university and the impact that it had on American society is what drew me to Ellis Island – the myth of an inclusive environment is somewhat dented by the restriction of Asian and eastern European immigrants, however. Photographs from the early 1920s show immigrants in detention pens, waiting to be sent back home, a part of Ellis Island which has been downplayed in contrast to the thousands leaving its shores to pursue the American Dream &#8212- a life which, for some, was never that smooth in reality.”

Rama can be downloaded from iTunes and was named as one of the ten best new travel apps by BBC Travel in 2010.

Irish History: Eamon De Valera in America

A new book by Irish journalist and commentator Dave Hannigan, De Valera in America: The Rebel President and the Making of Irish Independence, illuminates an interesting period in New York Irish history when de Valera, born in New York City in 1882, made an important return trip to convince Americans to recognize the newly proclaimed Irish Republic.

Eamon de Valera is one of the most famous characters in Irish history. He commanded troops during the 1916 Easter Rising, co-authored the Irish constitution, and in 1926 founded Fianna Fail, which continues to be the largest political party in Ireland today. De Valera was head of the Irish government from 1932–48, 1951–54 and 1957–59 and President of Ireland from 1959–73.

In June 1919, he arrived at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel pronouncing himself the &#8220President of Ireland.&#8221 He was on a mission to convince the United States to recognize Ireland as an independent nation, and also to fund the independence movement, which would be a clear affront to Britain. De Valera went on to give speeches in some of America’s largest venues, including Madison Square Garden and Fenway Park, where he drew crowds of 60,000 people. Over the course of that year, he accumulated fame and scandal, but more importantly, he gained essential financial support for the fledgling Irish Republic.

For the first time, a book follows de Valera on his controversial trip across America, exploring his personal and political relationships, and the costs and benefits of his perilous crusade. From newspaper headlines to cloak and dagger antics, Hannigan delivers a truly unique slice of Irish Americana, bringing to life this pivotal moment in history.

Dave Hannigan is a columnist at The Sunday Tribune in Dublin, the Evening Echo (Cork) and The Irish Echo. A former Irish young journalist of the year, he is also an adjunct professor of history at Suffolk County Community College on Long Island. He lives in Rocky Point, New York.

July 4th at Saratoga National Historical Park

Independence Day on Monday, July 4 will be celebrated at Saratoga National Historical Park on Routes 4 and 32 in Stillwater, with a 10:00am Citizenship Ceremony and traditional readings of the Declaration of Independence with free lemonade toasts at 1 and 3pm.

At 10:00 am, on the anniversary of our nation and upon the grounds where independence was won, 20 immigrants from countries all over the world will become new citizens of the United States of America. Fife and drums, color guard, musket and cannon firings frame this special event organized by Sons of the American Revolution, Daughters of the American Revolution, Friends of Saratoga Battlefield and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

At 1 and 3 pm, as a messenger from 1776, park ranger Joe Craig reads from the Declaration of Independence with authentic 18th century toasts reflecting the insightful wit of the document signers. Enjoy free lemonade to share in the toasts, followed by celebratory musket and cannon firings.

Saratoga Monument in Victory and the General Philip Schuyler House in Schuylerville, both located 8 miles north of Saratoga Battlefield, will also be open from 9:00am to 4:45pm. The Battlefield is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm.

Saratoga National Historical Park, located on Routes 4 and 32 in Stillwater, offers a variety of special events throughout the season. For further information, please call (518) 664-9821 ext. 224, or visit www.nps.gov/sara.

Photo: John Neilson Farmhouse &#8212- mid-level headquarters for the American Army at the Battle of Saratoga (Photo: Saratoga National Historical Park)

Live Theater Returns to Ellis Island

Sing a Song of Freedom: The Story of Emma Lazarus and the Statue of Liberty, a new play celebrating Lady Liberty’s 125th year, dramatizes how the writer’s poem “The New Colossus” transformed the beloved Statue into a symbol of welcome. The show opens at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum’s intimate Living Theater for a limited run beginning April 16 through Labor Day weekend. Written by playwright/director Ken Urban, the 30-minute play also features stories of immigration.

Produced and funded by The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, the show will be presented April 16 through June 27 on Monday and Wednesday through Saturday. Beginning June 28, the show will run Thursday through Monday. Show times are 10:45- 11:30- 12:15- 1:00- 2:30- 3:15- and 4:00. Admission is $6.00.

A gift from France to the American people, the Statue of Liberty was dedicated October 28, 1886. In 1982, President Ronald Reagan appointed Lee Iacocca to head up a private sector effort to restore the Statue of Liberty for her centennial. Fundraising began for the $87 million restoration under a public/private partnership between the National Park Service and The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc., and on July 5, 1986 the newly restored Statue re-opened to the public during Liberty Weekend. The famous sonnet written by poet and essayist Emma Lazarus (shown here) in 1883 is engraved on a bronze plaque which has been affixed to the inner walls of the pedestal since the early 1900&#8242-s.

Ellis Island Living Theater performances, which are both educational and entertaining, are especially popular with students, scout troops, day campers, religious groups, senior clubs, and families. Reservations for Sing a Song of Freedom: The Story of Emma Lazarus and the Statue of Liberty are accepted for groups of 10 or more. Since the theater seats 56 people, some groups may have to schedule multiple shows. Please note that the National Park Service, which administers Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, requires one chaperone for every ten children. Individuals without reservations are encouraged to purchase their tickets upon entering the museum.

For more information or to make reservations, contact The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation at 212-561-4500, ext. 0 or theater@ellisisland.org. More on Sing a Song of Freedom: The Story of Emma Lazarus and the Statue of Liberty can be found online.

For ferry tickets and schedules, call Statue Cruises at 1-877-LADY TIX or go online.

The Actors employed in this production are members of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.

Irish Heritage Museum Moving to Albany

The Irish American Heritage Museum has announced that it is moving into a new home at 370 Broadway in downtown Albany, NY. The Museum is completely modernizing the ground floor of the historic 19th century Meginniss Building in what has been a gutted century-old space to transform it into a state-of-the art, year-round exhibit and educational facility that also will house its O’Dwyer Research Library.

“In celebration of our 25th year of meeting our educational goals and the vision of our late founding Chair of the Board of Trustees Joseph J. Dolan, Jr., the Museum is moving into a new year-round, multi-faceted and expansive exhibit facility that will allow us to host large numbers of visitors as well as school and public groups for exhibit viewing, lectures, and other presentations throughout the year,” stated Edward Collins, Chair of the Museum’s Board of Trustees. “Further, our new Museum facility will be more accessible to the general public and provide downtown Albany with new vitality.”

Collins said of the Museum’s decision to move into downtown Albany from its part-time, summer seasonal exhibit facility in East Durham, Greene County: “The Irish have played such a central role in the history of this great city and region, from literally building Albany – and surrounding cities, villages and towns – from the earth up to protecting these areas and their people, to leading the people in every aspect of life in Albany and the surrounding region. Name a profession, occupation, leadership position or community service, and the Irish have had a central role in Albany’s life and the lives of those throughout the great northeast. The Museum’s Trustees, especially the late Joe Dolan, value greatly this rich legacy and seek to pass it forward to new generations of New Yorkers and Americans.”

The Museum expects to formally open its new, renovated facility at 370 Broadway, Albany, in September. It will move from The Michael J. Quill Irish Cultural and Sports Centre in East Durham, Greene County, which owns the summer seasonal exhibit facility previously leased by the Museum on Rt. 145 in that hamlet- the Quill Center will assume residency in that facility. The Museum will continue to partner with the Quill Center through loans of its exhibits to the Quill Center.

Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings joined in lauding the Irish American Heritage Museum’s move to the city. In a statement, Mayor Jennings said, “This museum is an important part of our community, inspiring countless residents and visitors to discover the story and may contributions of the Irish people and their culture in America, and even learn a bit about their own heritage along the way.”

Museum to Launch New Fundraising Campaign

The Museum will be launching a new fundraising campaign to help it sustain its mission and to provide future Capital Region generations a sense of the importance of their own heritage compass – whatever their heritage legacy might be – to help guide them in their lives. “In an age when we are all connected to each other through the internet, cell phones and so many other electronic devices, we would serve younger generations well by helping them stay connected to their heritage,” Collins explained. “The Museum is committed to the basic tenet that preserving one’s heritage is vital to providing a cultural and historical foundation to future generations of Americans. To paraphrase the Pulitzer Prize winning historian David McCullough, ‘Our heritage is who we are, and why we are who we are.’“

CCNY Historian Edits Book on Pakistan

Since its inception 64 years ago, Pakistan’s quest for democracy has been tenuous. In Pakistan: From the Rhetoric of Democracy to the Rise of Militancy, edited by Dr. Ravi Kalia, professor of history at The City College of New York, readers get an idea of why.

Published by Routledge (2011), the book comprises essays by scholars and diplomats from three continents. They reflect on the political, social, military and urban history of Pakistan with focus on its search for democracy as well as its pivotal role in the global war on terror. It is the only non-NATO country aligned with the United States in the war on terror.

Pakistan was carved out of British India in 1947 as a homeland for Indian Muslims and has alternated between military and civilian rule since. While the political rhetoric by successive leaders from both sides has indicated a desire for democracy, liberalism, freedom of expression and other such progressive concepts, the reality has been starkly different.

Instead, the world’s sixth most populous nation, nuclear-armed with a population exceeding 170 million, has continued to drift towards increasing authoritarianism, religious extremism and intolerance against minorities.

“This chasm between animated political rhetoric and grim political reality has baffled the world as much as Pakistanis themselves,” said Professor Kalia, an expert in South Asian studies. “In this volume, scholars and practitioners of statecraft from around the world have sought to explain the dichotomy that exists between the rhetoric and the reality.”

A major obstacle to democracy highlighted by Professor Kalia is a society based on powerful tribal loyalties and kinship associations.

“Pakistani institutions operate on the premise of tribal loyalty and kinship and while these help keep the country together, they hinder its transition into the 21st century. The military is the only entity that bares any resemblance to a western institution,” he said.

Contributors to the book are:

Dr. Gilles Boquerat, head of the South Asia program at the French Institute of International Relations in Paris.

Ainslie T. Embree, professor emeritus of history, Columbia University

Frederic Grare, charge de mission for Asian Perspectives, Department of Strategic Affairs, Ministry of Defense, France.

J. Andrew Greig, retired Foreign Service Officer, U.S. Department of State and United States Information Agency.

Annie Harper, social anthropologist, Trinity College, Conn.

Nazir Hussain, associate professor, Department of International Relations, Quaidi-i-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan.

Zafar Iqbal, sociologist, political activist, Pakistan.

T.C.A. Rangachari, retired Indian diplomat, visiting professor, Academy of Third World Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi.

Tahmina Rashid, associate professor, International Studies, Faculty of Arts & Design, University of Canberra, Australia.

Oskar Verkaaik, associate professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Amsterdam.

About Professor Ravi Kalia

A graduate of the University of Delhi (BA Hons., MA) and University of California-Los Angeles (MBA, PhD), Professor Kalia specializes in South Asian studies. His focus is urban-architectural history in colonial and post-colonial India. His books include “Chandigarh: The Making of an Indian City” (Southern Illinois Univ. Press & Oxford Univ.Press, 1987- revised, 1999), “Bhubaneshwar: From a Temple Town to a Capital City” (Southern Illinois Univ. Press & Oxford Univ. Press, 1994), and “Gandhinagar: Building National Identity in Postcolonial India” (Univ. of South Carolina Press & Oxford Univ. Press, 2004). Professor Kalia has been published in numerous journals including “Habitat International,” “India Quarterly,” “Journal of Urban History,” “The Encyclopedia of Conflicts Since World War II” (2006), as well as many international newspapers. He’s the recipient of three Fulbright scholarships and numerous other research awards.

Buffalo: Through Their Eyes Exhibit

In collaboration with Journey’s End Refugee Services and CEPA Gallery, Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society presents &#8220Buffalo: Through Their Eyes,&#8221 photography by international refugees living in Buffalo.

For their silver anniversary, Journey’s End asked recently arrived refugees to document the experience of adjusting to life as Buffalo’s newest residents. The participants received disposable cameras and training from CEPA Gallery. Their resulting images, reminiscent of early photographs of the ancestors of fellow Buffalonians, capture intimate moments in their homes, workplaces, communities- in essence the details of &#8220their&#8221 Buffalo.

Twenty-five images from the &#8220Buffalo: Through Their Eyes&#8221 project will be displayed from Friday, April 1 to Sunday, June 26, in the Historical Society’s Community Gallery. Admission to the gallery is free with paid museum admission.

There will be an opening reception, which is free and open to the public, on Sunday, April 3 from 12 to 5 pm.

Coverage of 1911 Triangle Factory Fire

The New York Times City Blog has been running a series of posts commemorating the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, which happened 100 years ago today on March 25, 1911.

There are links to the posts below, but first, here’s a brief description of what happened from Wikipedia: &#8220[The Triangle Fire] was the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of the city of New York and resulted in the fourth highest loss of life from an industrial accident in U.S. history. The fire caused the deaths of 146 garment workers, who either died from the fire or jumped to their deaths. Most of the victims were recent immigrant Jewish and Italian women aged sixteen to twenty-three.&#8221

&#8220Many of the workers could not escape the burning building because the managers had locked the doors to the stairwells and exits. People jumped from the eighth, ninth, and tenth floors. The fire led to legislation requiring improved factory safety standards and helped spur the growth of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, which fought for better working conditions for sweatshop workers.&#8221

Here is a round-up of the City Room’s outstanding coverage:

Liberating Clothing Made in Confinement

A Half Hour of Horror

A Frontier in Photojournalism

Editorial Cartoons

One Woman Who Changed the Rules

New Leaders Emerge

Labor Laws and Unions in the Fire’s Wake

In a Tragedy, a Mission to Remember

Garment Work in New York 100 Years After the Triangle Fire

The Building Survives

Remembering the Triangle Fire, 100 Years Later

Remembering Triangle Fire’s Jewish Victims

Clinging to Memories

In Search of Today’s Sweatshops

Labor Event: 1911 Triangle Factory Fire

FIRE! PLEASE HELP US WE ARE TRAPPED! These were the words screamed on Saturday afternoon on March 25, 1911. It was the horrific Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York’s Greenwich Village that took the lives of 146 mostly young immigrant women and changed the course of history.

To mark the centennial anniversary and recognize the significance of the Triangle tragedy, members of the public are invited to a special free program, which will be presented at the New York State Museum Friday, March 25, at 4 p.m. to coincide with the date and time of the fire. Sponsored by the Capital District Triangle Fire Centennial Coalition, the event will honor those who lost their lives and focus on the wide range of labor, health and safety laws that required better worksites in the aftermath of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire.

State Assemblyman John McEneny will emcee the event. U.S. Representative Paul Tonko, WCNY &#8211 Syracuse News Director Susan Arbetter and Dr. Christopher Breiseth, a Frances Perkins scholar and former president of Wilkes University, and Paul Cole, Executive Director of the American Labor Studies Center will all be part of the program.

Albany Roman Catholic Diocese Bishop Howard J. Hubbard is also scheduled to participate and help close the New York State Labor-Religion Coalition annual 40-hour fast for social justice, as part of the Triangle Commemoration.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory was the greatest work place tragedy New York has seen, prior to the World Trade Center attacks in 2001. This tragedy changed the course of history by shining a bright light on the injustices that occur in the work place. It paved the way for the unyielding efforts to protect workers on the job and reminds us that we must not take work place safety for granted.

Frances Perkins was the first woman to hold a U.S. cabinet post when she served as secretary of labor under President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s. Perkins witnessed the Triangle fire, which galvanized her commitment to reforming labor laws. She later served on the New York State Factory Investigating Commission, which recommended reforms in the aftermath of the Triangle fire.

The Capital District Centennial Coalition includes the NYS Department of Labor, NYS Department of Education (NYS Museum, NYS Library, NYS Archives), NYS Archives Partnership Trust, American Labor Studies Center, Catherwood Library-Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations, University at Albany, Capital District NY National Association of Women in Construction Chapter, Coalition of Labor Union Women-Kate Mullany Chapter Capital District, NYS Labor-Religion Coalition, Occupational and Environmental Health Center of Eastern NY, OSHA-Albany Office, NYS AFL-CIO, New York State United Teachers, Public Employees Federation, and CSEA.

NYSUT, PEF, CSEA, the New York State Department of Labor and the American Labor Studies Center provided support for the program.