The Colonial Albany Social History Project is a model community history program of the New York State Museum, an agency of the State Education Department through its Office of Cultural Education.

        The Colonial Albany Project was formed in 1981 to understand pre-industrial community life by studying the contributions of the diverse individuals who lived in the city of Albany during its formative years. The project offices closed in July 2013 following the retirement of its founder. However, all of its activities continue toward fulfilling the core goals and objectives as listed below.

Colonial Albany Project Logo

The Colonial Albany Project promotes awareness and understanding of New York's rich and complex heritage through programs and services that address the core experiences of the diverse peoples of New York State today. Database biographies for each of the 16,000 people who lived in early Albany make the project personally relevant to an astounding number of living Americans. Because of its inclusiveness and the depth of its inquiry, the project sets a new standard for understanding life in early American communities. Staffed primarily by students and volunteers, the Colonial Albany Project represents a practical example of the community approach to historical research, programming, and service.

Please consider the comprehensive project Guide as it represents the latest thinking on all things related to the Colonial Albany Social History Project and on each of these basic elements.

  1. Research: Database biographies are in progress for each of the 16,000 people who lived in the city of Albany before the Industrial Revolution. This population represents an important core element of early New York society. The life course histories of the people of colonial Albany are based on an exhaustive and systematic search of historical records and literary sources. The biographical profiles are supplemented with a graphics archive of visual images of early Albany people and their material culture, community maps, cityscapes, and of comparative images from other communities.
  2. Programming: Community history is shared through a range of publications, lectures and public presentations, portable exhibits, and more innovative educational programs. Programs interpret the early Albany experience for diverse audiences including present-day community members, descendants, the residents of other communities with similar experiences, students at all levels, professional historians, and those interested in particular themes ranging from childhood to community economics. This website represents the newest programming initiative and is adding new features on an ongoing basis!
  3. Service: The Colonial Albany Project has provided intensive training in social history research and practical experience in the work of the community historian for more than 300 student interns and volunteers. A comprehensive and frequently updated project guide explains the community history approach to the past in theory and practice. As a model community history program, the project has assisted numerous groups and individuals in adapting its experiences and resources to other settings. The Colonial Albany Project provides guidance and networking services for those studying early American social history. A growing number of graduate theses, monographs, and articles have utilized the project's research resources.

The project logo is based on the outline of the map of Albany in 1695 (shown in the background) as drawn by Reverend John Miller. The thick border reminds us that the people who lived in this early American city had lives substantially different from the farmers and foresters who inhabited surrounding Rensselaerswyck and greater Albany County. The stick figures represent the diverse peoples (men, women, and children of all backgrounds) who lived in the city before the Industrial Revolution and whose lives are at the heart of all Colonial Albany Project activities. The logo was designed by State Museum artist and friend Keith Prior during the early 1980s.

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first posted 2000; last revised 10/14/15