A Guide to Documenting Environmental Affairs in New York State
The past half century has seen human impact on the environment emerge as one of the most critical issues of our age, and citizens, scholars, organizations, and governments in New York have played enormously important roles in this history, often providing leadership for the nation and the world. Environmental issues are varied and complex, generating a wide range of passionately held opinions and agendas. Businesses and industries of every kind, communities, and individuals are being challenged to examine the ways they work and live and to balance environmental concerns with other areas of business practice and lifestyle. Environmental initiatives have often come into conflict with the interests, cultures, and values of property owners, businesses and industries, and communities. Organizations have sprung up on all sides of these issues, and all are part of the history of environmental affairs.
But much of the documentation essential to a full and accurate telling of this remarkable history in New York is being lost. Few organizations, large or small, that are concerned with environmental affairs have devoted serious attention to the care of their historically valuable records, and few repositories collect in this critical area. So extraordinary amounts of valuable documentation lie hidden, unavailable to history, in the homes of individuals, in the offices or storage spaces of scholars, organizations, businesses, and government legislatures and agencies.
The New York State Archives has developed Documenting Environmental Affairs in New York State for people and organizations who create or have in their possession historically valuable environmental documentation and for repositories that collect historical records. It is written as a tool to help save and make accessible this vital part of New Yorks history.
The New York State Archives, in cooperation with the New York State Historical Records Advisory Board, has prepared this guide as part of a statewide initiative called the New York Heritage Documentation Project, which is working to ensure the equitable and comprehensive documentation and accessibility of all of New Yorks history and peoples. Environmental affairs is one of the first topics to be addressed in this effort.
The overriding purpose of this guide is to help create a balanced, equitable and publicly accessible historical record of environmental affairs in New York State, one that represents fairly the full spectrum of interests, points of view, and activities that have shaped and continue to shape the history of this field. More specifically, the guide aims:
- To raise awareness of the importance of environmental documentation among the creators, custodians, and users of environmental records.
- To identify the priority areas for documentation of environmental affairs in the next decade and guide records creators, repositories, and funding sources in their decisions about what is most important to preserve and make accessible;
- To provide guidance in how to approach documenting environmental affairs to people and organizations that in the course of their daily life and work either generate or collect environmental records that may have enduring historical value.