April 23 01:02 PM
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Scholars Assess Historical New Paltz Documents as part of a National Endowment for the Humanities Planning Grant

Project Includes 17th-19th century documents from the collections of Historic Huguenot Street, the Town of New Paltz, the Dutch Reformed Church of New Paltz, and the Haviland-Heidgerd Historical Collection at the Elting Memorial Library in New Paltz.

08/30/2018 - As part of a $59,966 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Humanities Collections and Reference Resources planning grant for the preservation and digitization of collections awarded to Historic Huguenot Street (HHS) in April, visiting historians and authors Firth Haring Fabend and David William Voorhees have begun scholarly evaluation of historical New Paltz documents at HHS and partner institutions the Town of New Paltz, the Reformed Church of New Paltz, and the Haviland-Heidgerd Historical Collection at the Elting Memorial Library. The project began with a two-day site visit July 1819, during which Fabend and Voorhees viewed hundreds of original manuscripts, accounts books, and other documents ranging from the 17th through late 19th century.

"There is an overwhelming wealth of material in these collections, not just concerning local history, but also relevant to the national and international historical record," said Fabend. "It's rare to find such a depth of historical information in one community." Voorhees added: "We look forward to delving even further into the collections and helping to bring greater awareness to their significance to humanities research. It's impressive how much is available, not just on the French and Dutch settlers, but also relating to Native American and African American history in the region."

At the conclusion of their visit, Fabend and Voorhees met with representatives from all four institutions to share their preliminary findings. Those taking part in the July 19 meeting were New Paltz Town Supervisor Neil Bettez, Town Historian and Coordinator of the Haviland-Heidgerd Historical Collection Carol Johnson, Reverend Mark Mast and Kevin Cook from the Reformed Church, Digital Services Librarian and advisor on the project Jennifer Palmentiero from the Southeastern Library Resource Council, researcher and chair of the HHS Archives Sub-Committee Joan Kelley, and HHS curatorial staff Josephine Bloodgood, Ashley Trainor, and Carrie Allmendinger.

"It's exciting to see the four partner institutions coming together on this important project to preserve and digitize these documents," said Neil Bettez, New Paltz Town Supervisor. "This kind of cooperation can be rare and something we can all feel very positively about."

Over the next several months, Fabend and Voorhees will draft an assessment report elaborating the importance of these documents to humanities research, which will help prioritize the collections for preservation and digitization. Subsequent phases of the planning project consist of condition assessment of the collections by a team of conservators from the Conservation Center of Art and Historic Artifacts and development of digitization guidelines.

"This planning project is an essential step toward the implementation phase of the project, which will encompass conservation of the most important and/or fragile documents, an upgrade of archival storage materials, and digitization of the most historically significant material in a manner consistent with the highest professional standards," said Josephine Bloodgood, HHS Director of Curatorial and Preservation Affairs.

About the Scholars

Firth Haring Fabend is a historian with a Ph.D. from New York University. She is the author of two award-winning books published by Rutgers University Press on the Dutch in Early New York and the Dutch in 19th-century New York. Both books, as well as some 30 essays and/or chapters in books on these topics, were firmly based in primary sources, including in the court records of Bergen, Rockland, and Ulster Counties, town records, and church records. A third book, New Netherland in a Nutshell: A Concise History of the Dutch Colony in North America (2012), was commissioned by the New Netherland Institute and is in its second printing. She was awarded the Medal of the Huguenot Society of America in 2000 for her scholarship and served as Past President of the Society from 20047. She is the president of the Jacob Leisler Institute for the Study of Early New York History.

David William Voorhees received a Ph.D. in history from NYU. He is director of the Jacob Leisler Institute for the Study of Early New York History and managing editor of de Halve Maen, a journal devoted to New Netherland studies. His published works include two volumes of translations of the Records of the Reformed Protestant Church of Flatbush, Kings County, New York,(1998, 2009), as well as numerous essays on the colonial period in America. He published numerous essays relating to the connections between Jacob Leisler and the French Reformed (Huguenot) communities and was the Huguenot Society of America Medalist in 1993. He compiled an inventory of French- and Dutch-language documents held by HHS in 20045.

About Historic Huguenot Street

A National Historic Landmark District, Historic Huguenot Street is a 501(c)3 non-profit that encompasses 30 buildings across 10 acres comprising the heart of the original 1678 New Paltz settlement, including seven stone houses dating to the early eighteenth century. Historic Huguenot Street was founded in 1894 as the Huguenot Patriotic, Historical, and Monumental Society to preserve the nationally acclaimed collection of stone houses. Since then, Historic Huguenot Street has grown into an innovative museum, chartered as an educational corporation by the University of the State of New York Department of Education that is dedicated to protecting our historic buildings, preserving an important collection of artifacts and manuscripts, and promoting the stories of the Huguenot Street families from the seventeenth century to today.

About the National Endowment for the Humanities

Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at: www.neh.gov.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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April 23 2019

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