Four New Online Resources For New York History

l-retro-computer-ads-80s-eg_largeHere’s a quick look at some of the latest New York History resources to hit the web:

The Museum of the City of New York and the South Street Seaport Museum have launched a joint &#8220catablog&#8221 which provides online access to finding aids for their archival collections.  The archivists at both museums will continue to make more finding aids accessible via the Catablog as the collections are processed. Read more

Sandy Update: The South Street Seaport Mess

As downtown Manhattan assesses damage, more specifics are being reported, especially in low-lying Zone A. The Museum of the City of New York (MCNY), which is running the South Street Seaport Museum ,says that the storm surge waters soaked drawers of metal type in the Bowne and Co., Stationers. Read more

Sandy Damage Along Historic Waterfront, Islands

Hurricane Sandy’s damage to historic areas was concentrated along the waterfronts, islands and harbor in the New York area. Information is quite sparse at present, since power is still lacking in many places, and officials have not made damage assessment tours. Read more

After 25 Years, Albany Instiute Director Leaving

George R. Hearst III, chair of the Board of Trustees of the Albany Institute of History & Art, announced Tuesday that he has accepted the resignation of Christine M. Miles, who has served as the Institute’s executive director since 1986.

Citing a personal decision to explore new challenges, Miles tendered her resignation at an executive session of the board, held following its regular meeting on Monday, January 24.

“It is with mixed emotions that the board has accepted Chris Miles’ resignation as director of the Albany Institute,” Hearst said in making the announcement. “Chris’s contribution to the arts in the Capital District cannot be overstated. Not only has the Albany Institute enriched, educated, and stimulated our region under her expert direction, the arts community as a whole has benefited immeasurably from her skill, dedication, and experience.”

Throughout her tenure, Hearst noted, Miles has guided the Albany Institute, the oldest museum in New York State, through numerous advancements and challenges. Her long-range and strategic planning has brought the museum into its fourth century of service, Hearst said, and, especially in recent years, through some of the most difficult times the arts have ever faced.

“For almost 25 years, her vision has established the Albany Institute as one of New York’s most respected and distinguished institutions,” Hearst said. “We will continue to depend on Chris’s dynamic and insightful stewardship as we prepare to enter a new and exciting phase for the museum.”

Miles says her decision to resign as executive director of the Albany Institute was one of the most difficult she has made in her career.

”Obviously, this is not a decision that is made lightly,” she said. “The Albany Institute has been the center of my professional career for a major portion of my life. And, like so many other museums and arts institutions, it currently faces substantial financial challenges. However, I believe that the foundation we have worked to build here will help sustain this magnificent institution as it continues to meet these challenges. I look forward to assisting the board and staff in this time of transition.”

Prior to joining the Albany Institute in 1986, Miles was director of the Fraunces Tavern Museum in New York City, and also held positions as director, curator, researcher, and project director at such prestigious institutions as the Octagon Museum of the American Architectural Foundation in Washington D.C.- the South Street Seaport Museum in New York City- the Museum of the City of New York- and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.

During Miles’s term as executive director, in 1994, the Institute commenced a major capital campaign to fund a $20 million renovation project that added new buildings and state-of-the-art collections storage facilities, and substantially enhanced the museum’s educational, administrative, and exhibition spaces. The Institute broke ground on the project in 1998 and was closed from 1999 to 2001, when it reopened its new spaces to the public during a Grand Opening Gala.

Miles was also instrumental in helping the Institute gain a number of major grants and awards, according to museum officials, including a $250,000 New Audiences for the Year 2000 Award from the New York State Council on the Arts- a $500,000 National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Challenge, which enabled the museum to build its first true endowment- a $750,000 NEH Preservation and Access grant to aid in re-cataloging the collection, improving intellectual accessibility, and funding completion of the new collections facility- more than $750,000 raised over four years to fund the recent Hudson River Panorama exhibition, launched in conjunction with the statewide quadricentennial celebration in 2009- and, most recently, a $147,000 Museums for America Grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services to fund a website redevelopment project entitled, Digital Renaissance.

Under her direction, the museum has expanded its outreach to include classrooms and students in 26 states and 42 New York counties. Educational offerings have grown to include home school programs, weekend Art for All programs, Vacation Art Breaks, and summer programs. A wide range of lectures, gallery talks, demonstrations, and performances are held each year, as well as popular community-wide events such as the Institute’s Free Thanksgiving Weekend and annual Museum Gala.

Additional accomplishments include overseeing publication of the Institute’s first book documenting its collections, 200 Years of Collecting (Hudson Hills Press, 1998)- and the mounting of numerous nationally and internationally recognized exhibitions, including Thomas Cole: Drawn to Nature (1993)- Matters of Taste: Food and Drink in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Art and Life (2002)- the 350th Anniversary Celebration of the Founding of Albany (2002)- Rodin: A Magnificent Obsession (2005)- Excavating Egypt (2006), and Hudson River Panorama: 400 Years of History, Art, and Culture (2009).

Miles has also served on the boards of numerous civic and arts groups, including WMHT Public Television- the Albany County Convention and Visitors Bureau- the Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce, the University at Albany Foundation- and the Albany Local Development Corporation. She is a past president of the Museum Association of New York State and the Gallery Association of New York State.

In 2008, the Albany Roundtable selected Miles to receive its prestigious Good Patroon Award for her commitment to making the museum a broadly accessible cultural and educational resource. Established in 1988, the annual award recognizes outstanding contributions to the community by institutions and individuals. In 1996, she received the Women of Excellence Award from the Albany-Colonie Chamber of Commerce.

“Christine is starting a new chapter in her life,” Hearst said. “We are proud and thankful for the outstanding work she has done to make the Albany Institute of History & Art such a vital and vibrant part of our community, and the board wishes her every success in her future endeavors.”

Hearst said that the Albany Institute Board of Trustees will establish a recruitment committee to begin a national search to replace Miles, who will remain as executive director to oversee the transition during the course of 2011.

Photo: Christine Miles, Executive Director of the Albany Institute of History & Art (R) in conversation at a New York Council for the Humanities Event in 2010. Courtesy NY Council for the Humanities.

Waterfront Preservation Programs Announced

New York City’s Historic Districts Council, the citywide advocate for New York’s historic neighborhoods, will be presenting &#8220On the Waterfront in New York,&#8221 a series of films, lectures, and discussions exploring the history and preservation of NYC’s historic waterfront neighborhoods &#8211 much of which is proposed for redevelopment. Topics will include the preservation of South Street, the commercial and industry history of the waterfront, and a waterfront tour of the South Street seaport.

Film Screening and Discussion: Street of Ships
Thursday, October 1, 2009, 6:30pm
Anthology Film Archives, 32 Second Avenue at East 2nd Street, Manhattan
Fee: $15/$10 for Friends of HDC, seniors & students.

“Street of Ships” is a 1982 documentary by Charles Richards that chronicles the efforts by Peter Stanford and the early Friends of South Street to save from destruction and preserve some of the city’s oldest and most historically significant buildings. It concludes with the controversy surrounding the goals of 1980s commercial developers versus those wishing to maintain the area’s historical authenticity. The film features archival footage of the Seaport that evokes its past uses as a port and commercial district, along with interviews with area stakeholders and policy experts. The film will be followed by a presentation by Robert LaValva, founder and director of New Amsterdam Market, about the role of waterfront markets. The program will conclude with a discussion—reflecting new opportunities for the future of the Seaport District—with participants from the film including Peter Stanford, a founder and past president of South Street Seaport Museum and Terry Walton, a founder of the Seaport Museum and vice chair of the Working Harbor Committee.

On the Waterfront: A Lecture
Wednesday, October 14, 2009, 6:30pm
The Seamen’s Church Institute, 241 Water Street, Manhattan
Fee: $15/$10 for Friends, seniors & students.

This panel will examine the history and future of the waterfront through different lenses, from the commercial past of its wharves and docks to the adaptive reuse of structures still lining its edges. Richard A. Greenwald, professor of history and dean of graduate studies at Drew University will discuss the commercial aspects of New York City’s waterfront development from the mid-19th century up to 1950 as depicted in the film, “On the Waterfront.” Roland Lewis, president and CEO of the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, will examine the reuse of industrial structures along the City’s waterfront. The third speaker, Kevin Bone, an architect and editor of several books on the waterfront, will address the history and development of Manhattan’s historic seawall, a gargantuan structure which encircles the whole island and has literally shaped how the city has grown.

From the Ferries to the Fish Market: A Walking Tour of the South street Seaport

Sunday, October 18, 2009, 11:00am
Location to be announced upon registration.
Fee: October 18: $35/$25 for Friends, seniors & students.

The series will conclude with an in-depth tour of the South Street Seaport, examining such noted landmarks as the South Street Seaport Museum, the WPA-era New Market Building, and historic local businesses. Tour attendees will hear about the South Street Seaport’s diverse past from its beginnings up to the current day as a commercial, retail and residential district. Mr. LaValva will also discuss the role of public markets in shaping the East River waterfront. More recent history and plans for the future, including the massive redevelopment proposal by General Growth Properties will also be addressed by special guest Madeline Rogers. Due in part to this proposed development, in 2009 the Historic Districts Council successfully nominated the Seaport to the Preservation League of New York State’s “Seven to Save” listing of places to preserve in New York State. The tour will end at Acqua, a noted Seaport establishment for a complimentary drink. The exact location for the tour will be announced upon registration.

The complete series of all three events is $60/$40 for Friends, seniors & students. Advance reservations are required. Tickets can be ordered by visiting or contacting, 212-614-9107 or [email protected].

New Amsterdam: The Island at the Center of the World Exhibit

Another exhibit will mark the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s arrival in New York harbor, this one running September 13, 2009 &#8211 January 3, 2010. This exhibit, however, is a once-in-a-lifetime event. Many, if not most, of the documents included in the exhibition have never been shown publicly in this country. Some have never been exhibited at all. At the close of the exhibition, most will be returned to archival storage and will not be seen again.

South Street Seaport Museum will be partnering with the Dutch National Archives to present a remarkable exhibition, New Amsterdam: The Island At The Center Of The World. It will contain extraordinary early maps, as well as the oldest documentary &#8216-evidence’ on the early history of the settlement New York- the period of Dutch New Amsterdam (1609-1664).

The exhibition is divided into three sections: The World, The Island and The Origins, each with a different focus.

The World will feature approximately 20 watercolors by 17&#8242-h century cartographer Johannes Vingboons, illustrating trading posts from around the world.

The Island will contain extraordinary rare documents, maps and books about New Amsterdam, many of which have never before been exhibited in the United States. The centerpiece is the Schagen letter (1626), which is the oldest surviving evidence of the purchase of &#8216-manhattes’ from the Indians for goods worth 60 guilders. Many of the pieces belong to the National Archives of the Netherlands- other important loan items will come from the Royal Library in the Netherlands, the U.S. Library of Congress, the New York Historical Society and the Ostereichische National Bibliothek in Vienna.

The third section, The Origins, will include first-person stories of some of the Native Americans, the first foreign settlers from Santo Domingo, Brazilian Jews, pioneers from Europe and the first free Afro-American population.

The exhibition will be curated by Dutch historian and author Martine Gosselink and co curated by Russell Shorto. Ms. Gosselink curated the 2008 show At Home in the Golden Age: Masterpieces from the S0R Rusche collection at the Kunsthal in Rotterdam. She is also editor of the publication Iran and the Netherlands: Interwoven Through the Ages, to be published in September 2009.

On September 12, 2009 South Street Seaport Museum is having a reception for the opening of a new exhibition to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the founding of New Amsterdam by the Dutch. Prince Willem Alexander and Princess Maxima of the Netherlands will be attending the reception as well as other dignitaries from the Netherlands and the United States.