The job description for a Town Historian has changed in the last few years and the following recommendations are taken from the web site of Public Historians of New York State. The job description is now concentrated in four areas:
- Research and Writing – The first, and primary, responsibility of the Local Government Historian is interpretation of the past. It may include scholarly treatises as well as writing for the general public. You can read a selection of articles here.
- Teaching and Public Presentations – The Historian may serve as a resource to teachers especially in the fourth and seventh grade local curriculum, speak to community groups and work with individuals who are interesting in the community’s past.
- Historic Preservation – This includes preservation of the historic buildings in the area but also preservation of manuscripts and records that document a community’s past and the artifacts that make up a community’s culture. This is being done very well at the Library Museum run by the Greene Historical Society. It is the Historian’s job to recommend where historical matierials should be housed, such as the library, local government archives or the museum.
- Organization and Advocacy – Town Historians are often asked to participate in civic or patriotic observations. They may be asked to use their knowledge of local government to lobby for legislative initiatives to promote community history.
Access is important. The Historian should be provided with office space in the jurisdiction. Local Government Historians should not conduct business from their homes. But it’s not a perfect world and sometimes these guidelines cannot be followed.
It is also appropriate to mention what Local Government Historians are not.
- Historians are not antiquarians. – They do not collect facts without attempting to put the data in a larger historical framework. They do not seek collections. They should not take time to assemble scrapbooks of newspaper clippings. The local newspaper is on microfilm and is preserved at the local library.
- Historians are not archivists. – They are supporters, researchers and users of archival records kept by the Village and Town Clerks.
- Historians are not genealogists. – They may give out information that has been collected about early residents of the town but it is not their job to conduct genealogical research on demand. There are genealogists in the area who will do research for a fee. Also at the Moore Memorial Library, people can access http://ancestry.com/ free of charge for their research.
- Historians are not part of an historical agency staff. – Historians should not hold an office in the local historical society that has a private membership organization. The local historian is under public officers law to provide equal service to all citizens.
- Historians are not partisan political functionaries. – They must produce objective and unbiased history.
There are 1300 local government historians in New York State, the largest network of local government historians in the country. If you’d like to know more about local government historians go to the following web site:
Other important links are:
The Moore Memorial Library: http://www.4cls.org/greene/greene.html
Chenango County genWeb: http://www.rootsweb.com/~nychenan
Guernsey Library in Norwich: http://www.4cls.org/webpages/members/Norwich/NORWICH.HTML
To contact the Greene Town Historian, the e-mail is email@example.com – Peg Ross
For the Chenango County Historian, the e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org – Pat Evans
Also available are the articles that the town historian and other local historians have written for the
Chenango American since November 2006.