Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Light on New Netherland

There is an ambitious four-part project underway to mark the Quad in 2009.

Sponsored by the New York State Library and the Holland Society of New York, the New Netherland Project was established to complete the "transcription, translation, and publication of all Dutch documents in New York repositories relating to the 17th-century colony of New Netherland." The Dutch presence in North America began in 1609 when Henry Hudson explored the river that was to bear his name. "New Netherland"extended from the Connecticut River to Delaware Bay, including within its boundaries much of the current states of New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and western Connecticut.

The Albany-based New Netherland Institute (formerly Friends of New Netherland) seeks to increase public awareness of the work of the New Netherland Project and supports the project through fund raising. With a mission like that, it's no wonder that 2009 will be a big year for the group.

According to the group's press release, the Quad project will include:

* An exhibition on the scope of the 17th-century Dutch in the New World, from Connecticut to Delaware, including Beverwijck and New Amsterdam.
Light on New Netherland, “a traveling exhibition of first-class quality,” will be shown throughout the former New Netherland area and beyond. Exhibits in general present history far more effectively than any other medium. This exhibit will introduce adults and children to important, but not well-known aspects of American history and culture. It will travel beyond Albany and New York City, ultimately becoming a part of the permanent exhibit of NYC's New Amsterdam History Center; reach an audience greater than that of a lecture series, catalog, or book; go far beyond what is currently offered on the subject in schools; attract those who normally do not read history books; present material not readily available to the average person.

* Discovery and Invention: The Worlds of Henry Hudson, an exhibit to be developed by the Museum of the City of New York (MCNY) in co-sponsorship with the New Netherland Institute. This co-sponsorship will include the assistance of Dr. Charles Gehring, Director of the New Netherland Project, and support with funding and content.

* Illuminating New York’s Dutch Past, a documentary DVD focusing on the New Netherland Project and its connection with modern times. This video will provide some historical background about New Netherland; explain the importance of using documentary evidence; make clear why the New Netherland documents are unique and important; relate the journey the documents took from 1674 to the present; describe the necessary skills for translation; explain the translation process; give examples of the fascinating information found in these early records; and dispel some of the Dutch folk myths and misrepresentations of the Dutch in sources such as literature, history books, and social history.

* A history/exhibit book, a production that will focus on the Dutch-American heritage. The publication will be a Liber Amicorum: a book in praise of New Netherland. Resembling a Festschrift, it will praise the legacy of the Dutch rather than one person. Its introductory essay, setting the stage for the remaining texts, will be written by Russell Shorto, author of The Island at the Center of the World: the Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan & the Forgotten Colony that Shaped America. The volume's emphasis will be on previously undeveloped topics and will consist of essays by prominent authors and historians working in the field.

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