by Paula Lemire,
Consulting historian, Albany Rural Cemetery.

Originally posted to the Albany NY History blog.

Albany is one of the oldest and most historic cities in the United States.  Sadly, much of our tangible history has been lost to progress.  Look around the city and you will see only a few traces of Albany's colonial era, its role in the Revolutionary War, its development as a city before the Civil War.  And, certainly, a great swath of the city was consumed with the construction of the Empire State Plaza (a subject still hotly debated decades after the fact. 

There is certainly good reason to regret the historic treasures that are lost. But this is the time to not only protect what tangible history we still have, but we need to PROMOTE it.  It's not just about historic preservation, but also making use of what we have.  It's about speaking up, advocating for what we have.  It's about being active in even the smallest way and not just wishing someone else would step up and "do something."

Social Media
Many local historic sites and museums have a presence on social networks. Find their web site or blog, their Facebook page or Twitter. Like or follow it and, even more importantly, don't just favorite their posts. SHARE THEM to your walls. Post to their walls. Share your related photos with them. Help expand their reach instead of just passively showing support. 
Friends of...

Many have a “Friends of” group. You don't have to join every single one. But pick one or two that you have a strong interest in and join at whatever level you can afford. If nothing else, you'll likely get an interesting newsletter several times a year. Take part in their scheduled events and spread the word about them. Volunteer.  Share their schedules. Invite people to come along with you. Share photos from the events. And, as above, if the Friends have a social media presence, like it and share it.
Haven't been to your favorite museum in a while? Go. There's definitely a new exhibit or two and it's always great to revisit the old ones. Maybe there's a picture or object that you casually passed the last time that you will see from a different perspective now. Haven't been to that historic mansion since your middle school field trip? It's still there. It's still open. And it needs visitors. Bring a friend and, once again, share the experience whatever way you can.  Maybe you'll find a chance to volunteer, too.
There are scores of excellent books on Albany's past.  Many are out of print, but still accessible.  Some, like Joel Munsell's multi-volume Annals of Albany are available through Google Books or  Others can easily be obtaining through inter-library loan. 


You don't have to write a check for thousands.  Give what you can.  Encourage others to do the same by getting the word out about fundraising efforts at your favorite site or historic cause.  A hundred people giving ten dollars can be as powerful as one person giving a thousand, maybe more so if every donor also gets the word out about that cause.  There are stories of monuments funded by the smallest donations in the greatest numbers. 
Local history isn't a dead thing, but it needs a bit of life.  Support it and share it. 

A few links to get started:

The Friends of Albany History
Albany doesn't have its own city historial association.  This fills that void.  Follow on Facebook and find our past posts on our blog.

Albany...The Way It Was
The most active Facebook group focusing on Albany's past.

The Albany History Page
An ever-growing collection of links to historic sites and other online Albany history resources.