Johanna F. Yaun

Title: County Historian

The first New York State Historian was appointed by Governor Levi P. Morton in 1895. But in 1911 a devastating fire destroyed the State archive at the capitol building causing State Legislators to rethink the idea of centralizing historical records. In 1919 a municipal historian’s law was passed to establish a network of town, village, and city historians to protect their own historical materials and engage in active collecting. The law was amended in 1933 to mandate the creation of a County Historian network because it was deemed important to have better coordination within the system. The urgency to establish the first generation of historians may have been based on a need to appoint individuals to devise local fire protection strategies for existing records, but the needs quickly expanded to include proactive roles such as placing blue and yellow historic markers along the growing road systems and collecting stories from World War I veterans.

Since that time a professional organization, the Association of Public Historians of New York State has emerged, and they provide guidance and support to local historians across New York State. Their organization defines the scope of the historian’s work broadly as research and writing, public presentations, historical advocacy, and organizational advocacy.


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