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Dutchess County history to be highlighted with new historian

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Albany/HV: Dutchess County history to be highlighted with new historian
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Dutchess County is filled with history, from FDR's home and presidential library to the Poughkeepsie court house where New York ratified the U.S. Constitution. For the first time in two decades, the county has filled a full time historian position. YNN's John Wagner has more.

POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. -- A lover of history and a self-declared 18th century British Army Aficionado comes to Dutchess to fight for grant moneys, boost tourism and preserve the past. William P. Tatum III says as new county historian he'd like everyone who thinks Dutchess to think history.

"There are many, many stories to tell here," said Tatum. "There's a lot of research to do and best of all, we have a community that appreciates its history, which is not as common as one might like."

To start, Tatum set up regular brainstorming sessions with fellow history buffs and local historians. He ushers in a new era of collaboration and conservation, just as the county splits with a celebrated, but condemned hotel around since the 1700s.

The historic Nelson House will be history by Christmas and the county parking lot will be back open by the end of January. In the short term, more parking will take the place of FDR's old stomping grounds, but the county historian says Nelson House won't be forgotten.

"I'm designing an exhibit stand that will go up on the Nelson House site to provide a history of the site from its initial occupation from the early 18th century all the way through until today," said Tatum.

Tatum is completing his PhD studies in history at Brown University. Prior to his doctoral studies, he earned his Master's degree in history, also at Brown University, and earned his Bachelor's degree in history with an anthropology minor at the College of William and Mary.

Tatum has plenty of work cut out for him with tens of thousands of artifacts, maps and photographs to organize. He'd like to eventually get them on the web to increase access for locals and researchers around the country.

"The historic landscape here has incredible depth," said Tatum.

Next year, 2013, marks the 300th anniversary of democracy coming to Dutchess. A number of special events are already in the works. Tourists and the more than $400 million they spend in the county each year are welcome.

"The story of America," continued Tatum, "is in large part seen through the history of the Mid-Hudson Valley."

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