Welcome to this brief summary of A Guide to Documenting Environmental Affairs in New York State. Environmental affairs is a large, varied topic, and the documentation of historical records is a complex undertaking. That size and complexity are reflected somewhat in the full version of the guide, so this brief synopsis will give you an overview of the main points. Both versions will be useful for people with different degrees of experience with environmental affairs and historical records. The full version provides summaries of the documentation priorities, examples of various kinds of documentation projects, potential sources of assistance and funding, and a description of the methodology used to create the guide which is adaptable for regional documentation planning. You can access an html version of the full guide or download a PDF version.
- Why it's important
- Who this guide is for
- What we mean by Environmental Affairs and Documentation
- What to document
- How to document
- Regional and local documentation planning
- Documentation methodology
- Where you can get help
The environment has become one of the most critical issues of this epoch, permeating nearly every facet of human activity. Citizens, organizations, businesses, and government agencies engaged in environmental affairs in New York have had profound impacts on the state and the nation. But the historical record of environmental affairs is full of gaps, and vitally important records are being lost every day. It is up to the people who generate records and those in libraries, archives, and other repositories who collect them to do what they can to preserve the history of environmental affairs. This guide is designed to help you discover what role you might play in this process and offer guidance as to how to go about it.
The State Archives has prepared this guide mainly for three groups:
Creators of Records: People and organizations engaged with environmental affairs who create records in the course of their work, some of which may have long-term historical value. If you are affiliated with an organization, business, or government active in environmental issues, it may well be that you generate records that are of long-term historical value and should be saved in an accessible archives when your organization no longer needs them.
Custodians of Records: Organizations that collect historically valuable records and make them available to the public for research. If you are affiliated with an historical society, museum, library, or archives, it may make sense for you to begin collecting records related to environmental affairs. This collecting focus can be of great benefit to your organization and your community.
Users of Records: Individuals who use historical records in the course of their lives and work and have an interest in preserving and making accessible the documentation of environmental affairs. Scholars, teachers, students, policy-makers, and citizens active in this field are typical users of environmental documentation.
- Environmental Affairs The subject of this Guide to Documenting Environmental Affairs in New York State is the relationship, past and present, of humankind to the natural environment in New York.
- Documentation consists of valuable information found in "records," which may exist in a wide range of formats (paper, photographs and slides, motion picture film, audio- and videotape, computer disks and tape) typically collected by archival repositories. Records that have enduring value once they are no longer needed for their original purpose are known as "archival." For example, the 20-year-old board minutes of an organization or business are probably no longer needed to keep board members current, but they may document important decisions that affected the history of environmental affairs in New York. If so, they would be considered archival, and it may make sense for them to be in a publicly accessible archives
It is impossible to document everything that might be interesting, and not everything is of equal historical importance. To help you determine what is most important to document, we offer here a set of criteria that a documentation topic should meet, a list of high priority themes, or topic areas, and six major events/issues that have been enormously important in the history of environmental affairs in New York.
Proposed documentation topics should meet one or more of the criteria for statewide significance AND address one or more of these themes.
- Distinctive to New York, seminal, or precedent-setting
- Major impact over large geographical area
- Significant impact in several facets of environmental affairs
- Illustrative of common experience statewide
- Significant over a long time
- Contribute significantly to the database of scientific and technical information
- Not already well documented
- Land Use
- Water Quantity/ Quality/Pollution
- Protection of lakes, rivers, coastal zones, and wetlands
- Air Quality/Pollution
- Solid and Hazardous Waste Disposal
- Outdoor Recreation
- Public Health
- Environmental Justice
- Development and implementation of environmental laws and regulations
- Environmental litigation
- Citizen action through organizations and government
- Roles of business and corporations
- Environmental education and technical assistance
- Science and Technology
- Funding of environmental affairs
These are designated statewide priorities for documentation.
- Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserves and Adirondack Park
- New York City/ Catskills/Hudson Valley water supply system
- Robert Moses: State Park System, State Power Authority
- Hudson River: pollution, power plants, fisheries, etc.
- Love Canal
- Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC)
These criteria, themes, and events/issues will to help you decide whether a particular topic would be a priority for documentation in a statewide, regional, or local context..
Documentation is a cooperative effort between the creators and custodians of records, each of whom has different roles to play.
Records Creators may want to take the following steps:
- Improve the management of your current records, so that you can operate more efficiently, locate files you need more quickly, get rid of records you no longer need, and save office space;
- Identify records likely to be of enduring historical value, probably with the assistance of a qualified archivist;
- Identify and develop a partnership with a repository to care for the historically valuable records you no longer needed in your office.
Records Custodians may want to take the following steps:
- Organizational context mission, collecting policy, resources Determine whether collecting environmental affairs fits your organizations existing mission and collecting policy and what kinds of resources are needed and available. Change the collecting policy, even expand the mission, if necessary.
- Finding the creators of important records Identify the organizations,
agencies, and governments in your field or service area that have made
important contributions to environmental affairs and whose records would
enrich the historical record. Organizations are likely to be of the
- State government environmental agencies or the environmental activities or programs of state or federal agencies in New York
- The early history and New York-focused programs of major national environmental organizations founded and based in New York
- Statewide environmental organizations with strong impact, including organizations with multiple chapters or affiliates in New York
- Local or regional organizations that have had statewide impact or significance
- Local government entities and programs related to the environment, such as environmental management councils (EMC) or zoning and planning boards, that are representative of similar entities found throughout the state
- Local or regional organizations that are representative of similar organizations found throughout the state (e.g., small, single-issue organizations that come and go)
- Individuals who have important collections, unique perspectives, or vital information that is not recorded elsewhere, or who have made particularly significant contributions to environmental affairs.
- Design, obtain the resources for, and carry out a documentation project
This guide is statewide in scope, and the criteria, themes, and events/issues it lays out are based on statewide significance and impact. But it is also intended to stimulate and guide documentation planning at the regional and local levels. Some topics, events, or organizations that have not had a statewide impact may be very significant in a region or locality and should be represented in the documentary record. The methodology used to develop this guide is also adaptable to regional documentation planning. The State Archives, in cooperation with the New York State Historical Records Advisory Board, is interested in encouraging and supporting the development of regional and local documentation plans for environmental affairs. We also encourage local documentation projects that draw on the priorities set forth in this guide or in regional plans that may be developed in the future.
A central principle of the method used to develop this guide was the understanding that we would need input from throughout the state and from all facets of environmental affairs, particularly in determining the most important themes and topics for documentation. This principle of community involvement should be applied in regional and local planning as well.
This guide offers an introduction to the documentation of environmental affairs, but it cannot answer every question you might have or lead you step by step through the process, partly because the steps wont be the same in every situation. The staff at the State Archives is available and eager to help you make sense of this guide, think through documentation issues, plan documentation projects, and seek support for documentation efforts. At several places below we urge you to contact us, and Sources of Assistance and Funding describes other resources as well. Please do get in touch with us anytime.
The New York State Historical Records Advisory Board
The New York State Archives
Suite 9D46 Cultural Education Center
Albany, New York 12230
Email SHRAB: email@example.com
Email Archives: firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone: (518) 474-6926