New York State Is Saying Yes to Heritage Tourism

Posted by Edward V. Curtin on July 2, 2012 in Archaeology, History |

Several Fieldnotes posts in one way or another have advocated heritage tourism. We have visited Montezuma Swamp and its ancient American Indian history, gone walking to imagine the prehistoric world, noted the rich potential for heritage tourism in Eastern New York (in resonance with John Roby’s wise words on the economy), and pointed out destinations to observe the bicentennial of the War of 1812.

Dawn breaks over New York State, a place known for history and the beauty of nature.

Now I am pleased to hear that the State of New York is including heritage tourism in its plans to make New York sites and regions destinations for tourists, and in doing so, strengthen the economy. Recently, The Saratogian newspaper carried a front page article by Paul Post titled “NY to Profit from History: State to Better-promote its Historic Landmarks to Tourists”. Post notes Governor Cuomo’s “Path Through History” initiative and observes Cuomo’s reported strong interest in New York’s local history.

The article also indicates that New York State may have some catching up to do. However, the important point in the leadership on heritage tourism provided by Cuomo, parks officials, and others is that historic sites (and here I include archaeological sites) are seen as assets in the generation of economic development, rather than as impediments, or as costly budget-items of secondary importance. Cuomo is taking the initiative in crafting a win-win, and therefore there is great hope for historic programs and their power to stimulate the economy.

In all likelihood, much of the effort will involve outdoor sites and roadside destinations in which the setting is as important as the historical information, and where a broad experience can be shared by many people of different interests. For example, for some the outdoor experience will be more significant than the historical particulars, and this simply enlarges the educational value and enjoyment of these destinations for the wide range of potential visitors. This connection between the enjoyment of history and the outdoors underlies my writing on being an archaeo-tourist at Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, taking walks in the woods while being mindful of the Native American past, or guiding oneself among the War of 1812 sites and historic markers in Plattsburgh. In addition to specific structures, sites, or historic markers, the woods and fields, roads and canal paths, streetscapes and landscapes are places where history and all of the other enjoyable aspects of the great outdoors merge.

Please share your thoughts about heritage tourism in New York State or experiences of history and archaeology tourism in other states.

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