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From the 123rd Annual Meeting column of the September 2008 issue of Perspectives on History

Tours Organized by the Local Arrangements Committee

AHA Staff, September 2008

New York Public LibraryPreregistration is highly recommended for all tours. Tickets will be available via onsite registration up to one hour before the scheduled departure of each tour if space is still available. Tour tickets are non-refundable and cannot be exchanged. Tour participants must be registered for the AHA meeting.

Tours will meet at the locations specified below. Please arrive approximately fifteen minutes before the scheduled departure time. For tours traveling by subway, round-trip MetroCards will be provided.

Tour 1: New York Public Library

Date, time: Friday, January 2, 1:00–2:30 p.m. Meeting site: Meet in the Hilton's Concourse F at 1:00 p.m. for a short walk to the library. Tour leaders: Maira Liriano, New York Public Library; Steve Fraser, independent scholar.

Description: Often referred to as the “main branch,” the magnificent Beaux-Arts landmark building on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street houses the New York Public Library's Humanities and Social Sciences Library. The library's rich and diverse collections in the humanities, social sciences, and special collections were initially formed from the consolidation of the Astor and Lenox Libraries, and have evolved into one of the world's preeminent public resources for the study of human thought, action, and experience—from anthropology and archaeology, to religion, sports, world history, and literature. Maira Liriano, Assistant Chief Librarian, The Irma and Paul Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy, will be your guide for a one-hour tour of this remarkable institution. Limit: 20 people; fee: $10. Sold Out as of Oct. 1.

Tour 2: African Burial Ground National Monument and Visitor Center

Date, time: Friday, January 2, 1:15–4:15 p.m. Meeting site: Meet in the Hilton's Concourse F at 1:15 p.m. to take the subway to the site. Tour leaders: Jocelyn Wills, Brooklyn College, City University of New York; representative of the National Park Service.

Description: Widely acknowledged as one of America's most significant archaeological finds of the 20th century, Lower Manhattan's African Burial Ground commemorates the significant role that enslaved African men, women, and children played in the culture and economy of the Americas. In 1991, during the construction of a federal office building at 290 Broadway, excavators uncovered the Americas' largest colonial-era cemetery for enslaved Africans, containing the remains of approximately 20,000 people of African descent. Following a very public debate over the excavation site, Howard University won the right to examine and document the ancestral remains and burial artifacts in an archaeological, bio-anthropological, and historical study aimed at uncovering the conditions, customs, and characteristics of the lives of 18th-century Africans. A decade later, on October 4, 2003, 419 of the colonial-era enslaved and free African Americans were re-interred at the site, in a ceremony dedicating the African Burial Ground National Monument now tended by the National Park Service. The 90-minute tour will revisit the history of the excavation, the story of the competition over economic development in Lower Manhattan versus the historical significance of the remains, the re-interrment and memorial, and the commissioned artwork on display. Limit: 30 people; fee: $15. Sold Out as of Oct. 1.

Tour 3: United Nations Archives

Date, time: Saturday, January 3, 9:00 a.m. to noon. Meeting site: Meet in the Hilton's Concourse F at 9:00 a.m. to take the subway to the archives. Tour leaders: Bridget Sisk, United Nations Archives and Records Management Section; Paola Casini, United Nations Archives; Trudy H. Peterson, consulting archivist; Joseph Morgan, Iona College.

Description: This tour is designed to complement session 103, “Preparing for the Research Trip: What to Know before You Go,” sponsored by the AHA Research Division and the AHA Graduate and Early Career Committee. Bridget Sisk, Chief, Archives and Records Management Section and Paola Cassini, Chief, United Nations Archives, will lead a private tour of the reading room with examples of finding aids, records, and a stack walk-through. The tour is designed for graduate students and will focus on building archival research skills, while offering a chance to see highlights of the United Nations collection. The United Nations (UN) Archives constitutes a vast and rich resource for the study of the history of the UN and international peacekeeping, as well as the records of significant agencies the preceded the United Nations. Its archives are relevant to a wide range of international research topic, documenting the perspective of both sides in numerous conflicts as well as the diplomats who attempted to mediate. (Participants are not required to attend the session to go on the tour.). Limit: 20; fee: $10.00. Registration will be limited to those who have registered for the meeting at the graduate student rate.

Tour 4: Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace Natl. Historic Site

Date, time: Saturday, January 3, 9:30 a.m.–noon. Meeting site: Meet in the Hilton's Concourse F at 9:30 a.m. to take the subway to the site. Tour leaders: Mike Amato, National Park Service; Robert Snyder, Rutgers University-Newark.

Description: The Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace is a well-researched replication of the Roosevelt family's 1848 brownstone undertaken by architect Theodate Pope Riddle in 1923, seven years after the original building was demolished. The Roosevelt family owned the entire five story house. They employed a number of servants who took care of the cooking and cleaning for the household.

In 1919 when President Roosevelt died, the Women's Roosevelt Memorial Association was formed. To honor and preserve his memory, they decided to rebuild his birthplace as a memorial museum. A variety of artifacts that detail TR's life are on display. They include his Rough Rider uniform designed by Brooks Brothers; the last shovel of dirt from the Panama Canal; a replica of his Nobel Peace Prize (which he was the first American to be awarded); and of course the famous shirt, spectacle case, and speech that were penetrated by an assassin's bullet in 1912 when he was campaigning for a third term. Visitors will tour five period rooms decorated with 60 percent Roosevelt family furnishings and two exhibit galleries that detail Theodore Roosevelt's life. The historic site is not wheelchair accessible. Limit: 20 people; fee: $10. Sold Out as of Oct. 1.

Tour 5: Contemporary Art in Long Island City

Date, time: Saturday, January 3, noon–3:30 p.m. Meeting site: Meet in the Hilton's Concourse F at noon to take the subway to the museums. Tour leaders: Rita Pinto, Long Island City Cultural Alliance; Brenda Elsey, Hofstra University.

Description: Visits spaces of cutting-edge art that represents the impact of new immigration and globalization on Queens. The sites visited are all dedicated to the regeneration of urban space and rethinking the role of art in contemporary society. Sites include P.S. 1, an internationally acclaimed contemporary art museum housed in a nineteenth-century public school house and 5 Pointz, a graffiti-art mecca. Limit: 20 people; fee: $20.

Tour 6: New York Transit Museum

Date, time: Saturday, January 3, 1:15–4:45 p.m. Meeting site: Meet in the Hilton's Concourse F at 2:00 p.m. to take the subway to the museum. Tour leaders: Virgil Talaid, New York Transit Museum; Peter J. Wosh, New York University.

Description: Virgil Talaid, Education Coordinator, will lead a tour of the New York Transit Museum. Housed in a historic 1936 IND subway station in Brooklyn Heights, it is the largest museum in the United States devoted to urban public transportation history, and one of the premier institutions of its kind in the world. The guided visit to the New York Transit Museum will encompass a survey of advances and evolution in public transportation in the New York City region, beginning with the 19th-century surface transit to the underground rapid transit, commuter networks, and bridges and tunnels connecting the boroughs of New York and beyond. Featuring the museum's vintage rolling stock, exhibits, and collection of transportation objects and ephemera, the tour will explore the parallels of the region's transportation to the social, political and technological histories of the city. Limit: 25 people; fee: $10.

Tour 7: Paterson Great Falls Industrial Museum Site

Date, time: Sunday, January 4, 9:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m. Meeting site: Meet in the Hilton's Concourse F at 9:00 a.m. for bus to Paterson. Tour leaders: Giacomo de Stefano, Paterson Museum; Timothy Coogan, LaGuardia Community College.

Description: The tour will take visitors to Paterson, a city that was one of the birthplaces of America's industrial revolution and the site of many famous labor struggles. The tour will include the Great Falls, weather permitting, and the Paterson Museum in the Thomas Rodgers building, the original site of Rodgers Locomotive production. The museum houses the Silk City Exhibit and wonderful artifacts from Paterson's industrial history from its founding in 1792 to the present. The exhibit examines the city's landmark status in the production of locomotives, textiles, Colt firearms, Wright aeronautical, and Holland submersibles. Local and regional public historians have been involved in a campaign to have the site designated a National Historical Industrial Park. Legislation has been passed by the House and forwarded to the Senate by the Energy and Resources Committee. Limit: 30 people; fee: $10.

Tour 8: Lower East Side Tenement Museum

Date, time: Sunday, January 4, 9:15 a.m.–noon. Meeting site: Meet in the Hilton's Concourse F at 9:15 to take the subway to the museum. Tour leaders: Museum curatorial staff; Daniel Soyer, Fordham University.

Description: The Lower East Side Tenement Museum's landmark tenement building at 97 Orchard Street is the first homestead of urban working class and poor immigrant people preserved and interpreted in the United States. Located on Manhattan's Lower East Side, an immigrant portal for almost two centuries, 97 Orchard Street was home to an estimated 7,000 people from more than 20 nations between 1863 and 1935. The museum is carefully restoring the apartments to look as they might have at various times in the building's history, based on meticulous research into the lives of actual residents. Our tour will visit the apartments of the Levine family, Jewish immigrants from Poland who ran a garment shop in their home; and the Rogarshevsky family, whose apartment is depicted as they mourned the loss of their father, Abraham, who worked as a presser in a garment factory until succumbing to tuberculosis in 1918. Members of the museum's curatorial team will lead the tour, which will focus on the research and interpretive questions that go into creating the exhibits and tours. The historic tenement is not wheelchair accessible. Limit: 30 people; fee: $15. Sold Out as of Oct. 1.

Tour 9: Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Date, time: Monday, January 5, 8:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. Meeting site: Meet in the Hilton's Concourse F at 8:30 a.m. to take the subway to the research center. Tour leaders: DeBrecca S. Pressey, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; Joseph Morgan, Iona College.

Description: The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture of The New York Public Library is generally recognized as the world's leading research library devoted exclusively to documenting the history and cultural development of peoples of African descent worldwide. From its founding in 1925 during the Harlem Renaissance, the center has amassed vast collections of over 10 million items. Resource materials are organized by format into five distinct divisions: General Research and Reference; Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books; Photographs and Prints; Moving Image and Recorded Sound; and Art and Artifacts. A cultural center as well as a repository, the Schomburg Center also sponsors a wide array of interpretive programs, including exhibitions, scholarly and public forums and cultural performances. Limit: 25 people; fee: $10.

Tour 10: Museum of the City of New York

Date, time: Monday, January 5, 10:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m. Meeting site: Meet in the Hilton's Concourse F at 10 a.m. to take the subway to the museum. Tour leaders: Donald Albrecht, Museum of the City of New York; Timothy Coogan, LaGuardia Community College.

Description: An exclusive private tour of the Paris/New York: Design Fashion Culture, 1925-40 exhibit with curator Donald Albrecht. The exhibit explores the cultural love affair and rivalry between two world capitals, New York and Paris. Featuring furnishings, fashions, drawings, paintings, and photographs (many of them never exhibited in America), the exhibition traces a balance of power that shifted to New York, which was then emerging from the shadow of its sophisticated trans-Atlantic counterpart and taking the lead in such fields as architecture, fashion, cuisine, interior design, music, and all that had come to represent la belle France. As Paris entered a state of transition between a vanished past and an uncertain future, according to historian Tyler Stovall, New York became a city of progress, expansion, and modernity. Limit: 20 people; fee: $30

Tour 11: Helen Keller Archives

Date, time: Monday, January 5, 10:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. Meeting site: Meet at the Hilton's Concourse F at 10:30 a.m. to take the subway to the archives. Tour leaders: Helen Selsdon, American Foundation for the Blind; Ellen Ross, Ramapo College.

Description: This tour will take you behind the scenes at the Helen Keller Archives, located at the American Foundation for the Blind, where Keller worked for more than forty years. Keller (b. 1880) became deaf and blind at the age of 19 months due to illness. She learned to communicate with the help of her teacher, Anne Sullivan Macy. Through her memoirs and her personal appearances, Keller became a powerful public advocate for full social participation for people with vision loss. She also became known as a strong supporter of socialism, women's suffrage, and pacifism. This tour will be of special interest to scholars concerned with the history of disability, biography, education, and social reform. Helen Selsdon, an expert on Keller who manages a collection of over 80,000 items bequeathed by Keller to the AFB upon her death in 1968, will lead the tour. The tour will include a collection that includes letters, manuscripts, photographs, scrapbooks, and audio recordings, as well as an exhibit in the AFB lobby. Limit: 10 people; fee: $10.

Tour sites are wheelchair accessible, except where indicated above. Several tours will travel by subway, which in most cases is not accessible. Alternate transportation can be arranged on request. Please contact the AHA by December 1, 2008, if you require accommodation and someone will contact you to determine specific needs.