Key to "Old Main" from Milne Library's Special Collections holdings. (SUNY Geneseo photo/Keith Walters '11)
SUNY Distinguished Professor Michael Leroy Oberg is hosting a workshop for nearly 80 local municipal historians on Saturday, Feb. 16. Oberg, who has been a member of Geneseo’s history faculty for twenty years, hopes to create partnerships that will enhance civic engagement between undergraduate students and public historians in the region.
“When we teach people about their own history, their own place, we teach them, at least in part, that their stories matter,” Oberg said. “It may not be enough for us any longer merely to remember the past.” What we ought to do, he said, is “connect people who feel disconnected” and “present them with the evidence that they have a role in their community’s story, that they are themselves forces in history.”
In the summer of 2019, and again in the fall of 2019, Oberg is offering a new course, Local History Workshop. The goal of the course is to pair Geneseo’s students with a municipal historian or a local historical society to work collaboratively on a project or proposal that will engage the public.
“Together, we can do important work to educate New Yorkers about their state’s diverse and rich history,” Oberg said. “Students will benefit from the hands-on and high-impact learning experience work in a public history setting can provide, and local historians will benefit from the skills and the energy of our fine students will bring to their cities and towns.”
The New York State historian, Devin Lander, will be attending the workshop as well as Ami Alden from Livingston County, David Parrish from Geneseo, Michelle Finn, Rochester’s deputy historian, and Michael Galban, the historian at Ganondagan State Historic Site and many others.
Attending historians are invited bring artifacts or documents from their repositories to discuss and share with their colleagues.
Taylor Stoermer, Ph.D., will be giving a lunch-time talk during February’s workshop. Stoermer teaches public history in the Museum Studies program at Johns Hopkins University. Prior to joining the Museum Studies faculty, he taught at Harvard University and served as the director of Historic Huguenot Street (a National Historic Landmark District in New York City) and chief historian of Colonial Williamsburg. He’s also held fellowships at Yale University, the Huntington Library, the International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello, and the Virginia Historical Society. Stoermer is also the author of Colonial Williamsburg: The Official Guide (2014) and Public History: A Field Guide (Forthcoming, 2019).
Oberg hopes that bringing the group together will culminate in a list of action items and talk for future meetings.