Madison County Historian
Matthew Urtz was appointed the Madison County Historian in April of 2010. He also serves on the Cabinet of Freedom for the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum, on the Board of Directors for the Preservation Association of Central New York and as the First Vice-President and Region 9 Coordinator for the Association of Public Historians in New York State.
Urtz’s articles have been published in multiple local and regional newspapers and magazines. He does over 30 public and private presentations a year on all things Madison County.
In 2011 the Madison County Historian’s Office, the Madison County Clerk’s Office and Madison/Oneida BOCES formed a partnership that allowed teachers to learn about local primary sources and how to utilize them in their classroom. In October of 2014 Urtz, the Madison County Clerk’s Office and Madison/Oneida BOCES were awarded the Excellence in the Education Use of Local Government Records by a Local Government award by the New York State Archives for their work incorporating local government documents into teacher’s lesson plans.
In October of 2013, the Madison County Historian’s Office started a project to record the stories of Veterans from Madison County. The project is ongoing and to date 12 local World War II veterans’ stories and four Korean War veterans’ stories have been recorded as well as the story of an Air Force National Guard Veteran that served in Operation Desert Storm. As part of this project the office digitized a number of photograph collections of some of the veterans as well. The interview series spawned a second series of interviews recording Madison County history by interviewing elderly residents. Interviews have included a prominent national artists based in Georgetown, the Madison County Clerk form the 1950’s/1960’s and a farmer who farmed from the late 1940’s to the mid 1990’s. Most of these recordings are posted on the Madison County Historian’s web page.
In 2017 Urtz was awarded a Larry Hackman Research Residency to the New York State Archives to continue his research into the Arthur L Brooks Grand Army of the Republic #272 based in Hamilton, NY. An article on this research was published in the Winter 2019 New York Archives Magazine.
In the fall of 2018, the historian’s office launched “History Where you Eat.” The event features a brief history and tour of local historic restaurants. Five events have been hosted since the fall and have drawn over 200 people to local restaurants with a number of events upcoming.
In May of 2019, after an 18-month renovation, the 120-year old Madison County Courthouse reopened. The courthouse was extensively renovated, yet was able to retain much of the original details such as the Italian marble, and original woodwork. Stained glass windows were restored and featured. The Madison County Historian’s Office also worked to restore numerous late 19th and early 20th century portraits of the Madison County Bar Association members, the portraits hang in various courtrooms in the building. Man of the portraits had been in storage for 50+ years, and a few more portraits will be hung pending completion of restoration.
The Madison County Historian’s office launched a new program entitled “If Tombstones Could Talk” in the spring of 2019. The event gives tours of local cemeteries and uses local actors to portray “residents” of the cemetery. These tours are a fundraiser for local cemetery associations, libraries and historical institutions. Research for two events in the spring of 2020 has already begun.
The Madison County Historian’s Office started an extensive digitization project in the spring of 2019 with two large photographic collections. One features photographs of local homes in 1973, this project was completed in May. A second larger collection of black and white negatives taken by the Madison County Highway Department features large snowstorms, bridge washouts, equipment photos from the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s. The second collection digitization is ongoing.
Urtz is scheduled to publish his first book in the spring of 2020, which seeks to tell the stories of World War I & World War II soldiers from Madison County who died while they were in service.