On Friday, March 21st, the Hudson River Valley Institute hosted the Greater Hudson Heritage Network Techistory Conference in conjunction with the Southeastern NY Library Resources Council and the Sound and Story Project of the Hudson Valley. This event took place on the beautiful Marist College campus in the newly renovated Student Center. The focus was on a new era of technology and how innovative resources can be used successfully to teach history. The conference combined the final event of the four partners’ grant-funded Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) project with GHHN’s annual meeting and conference. Sound and Story of the Hudson Valley received the IMLS grant to “bring oral history into the twenty-first century” with digitized archival content, newly-produced exhibits and productions, a smartphone app, and the story Cube.
The conference began with a keynote speech by Tom Scheinfeldt, a professor and director of Digital Humanities at the University of Connecticut. His talk highlighted the coevolution of digital archives and traditional historical collections. While these new developments may inspire fear that physical collections will become overshadowed by digitization, Scheinfeldt outlined how these processes can both separate scholars and collection professionals, but also bring them together in the new reality of the digital age. While the content may have been a challenge for some, his underlying message was optimistic and encouraging: don’t be afraid of technology and do the best you can with what you’ve got.
The participants of this conference, numbering between 150 and 160 people, were provided with three separate concurrent sessions. Each session had the option of one of three discussions, ranging from the implementation of new technologies in the FDR Presidential Library, to Wikipedia in New York Library and Archives, to an introduction of “The Cube”. Representing from both an artistic and historical arena, the Cube was created through the Sound and Story Project and is a mobile recording device used to capture interviews and stories about history. The Cube was brought in for this conference and an opportunity to have the chance to record using it was given away at the end of the day.
The techistory conference was brought to a close with the presentation of awards of excellence by the Greater Hudson Heritage Network. These awards were given “to recognize and commend exceptional efforts among GHHN members”. Thirteen participants were awarded. One of the winners was the West Point Museum Staff, for their use of new technologies in the Trophy Point/Fort Putnam Reinterpretation Project, as well as the Mount Guilian Historic Site for its creation of a short film. Scheinfeldt offered the closing remarks to wrap up a successful educational event.
By Samantha McNerney
Roland Keller’s Pardee Holler is an interesting mystery tale of the unlucky private detective named Easy Taylor who investigates a conspiracy to halt Crestline development within the Catskill Mountains. Roland Keller does a fantastic job setting up the novel with an exhilarating opening scene of a parade sponsored by the emerging Crestline Estates Company followed by a subsequent explosion which sets not only the spectators and participants into chaos but also sets up the proceeding narrative with a great hook.
Keller provides an innovative setting for his mystery tale by crafting fictional geographical locations like Pardee Mountain and integrating it with factual geographical elements in addition to his blending of locality and caricature in his character development. Pardee Mountain quickly develops as the main point of conflict as this state protected territory in the Catskill Mountains is threatened by a multimillion dollar development plan. Tension escalates rather quickly as the reader soon learns of the animosity among the locals toward Deyl MacGreedy, the head of Crestline Estates. As the reader would assume, trouble arises when the construction site experiences some minor hassles like the disappearance of construction material, the redirection of machinery to another job, as well as money issues with labor subcontractors. After the threat of bombs becomes prevalent, the private investigator Edward Zachary Taylor, better known as Easy, is assigned to investigate.
It is fair to say that Keller certainly develops his novel’s protagonist Easy as an appealing and entertaining character whom readers can easily relate with. Struggling to pay bills, getting down bets with his bookie, and on the verge of being fired from his miserable job with Lauder & Donovan Investigations, Inc., Easy travels to the Catskills to figure out the dilemmas troubling the Crestline development. Keller brings even more suspense to the plot when Easy discovers a young, attractive veterinarian who is partaking in more than simply tending the local animals. The reader learns that Dr. Henrietta Van Vonderhueeks, who goes by Doc Hank, is secretly doing research within the area and despite Easy’s best efforts to find another suspect, all the evidence points to the lovely Doc Hank. Easy soon finds himself falling in love with one of his top suspects, hunted by a violent undercover killer, beat up, blown up, and heading into the mountains in pursuit of the so-called Yeti of New York.
Readers can appreciate Keller’s suspenseful and dynamic clash between corrupt Albany politicians, materialistic Catskills developers, boondocks Pardee Mountain folk and fervent environmental advocates. Keller’s ability to effectively move in between each scene so flawlessly so that readers feel as though the characters pick up right where they left off with no overlay. It’s hard to say what the most suspenseful element of Keller’s plot is. One most certainly would be the sexual tension between Easy and Doc Hank. As Easy secretly “investigates” her, he can’t decide whether Hank is guilty of the bombings or just guilty of being the star of his fantasies. Easy doesn’t believe she is guilty although he has little to go on other than his desire to get to know her better. He attempts to prove her innocence while being paid to prove how she carried out the bombing. During his getting to know her, their relationship develops into its own sort of explosion, making the novel even more suspenseful.
Meanwhile, Dr. Hank trusts that Bigfoot lives on the land where the luxury condos are supposed to be developed. I almost had difficulty at first believing the legitimacy of the novel for a time simply because the idea of Bigfoot was so preposterous that I couldn’t understand how Keller would effectively tie such a crazed idea into his already busy plot. In addition the character Virgil, who Keller portrays as the local country bumpkin whose family originally retained that land in a conservation trust, catches every chance he gets to disgrace Easy, which is quite easy since the man essentially has no confidence. Keller really hits the nail on the head with his climax as murder arises and the reader is left with a cliffhanger. Although the mystery of the yeti does get solved, Keller leaves his readers with many loose ends left unexplained and untied which I found acceptable since realistic details are not something Keller stresses too much in the book. Overall, the novel was a fantastic read and I would definitely suggest it to anyone interested in a good mystery spiced with romance and a bit of mythical legend.
-Reviewed by Rosemarie Martens
Roland, Keller, Pardee Holler: An Easy Taylor Mystery, (New York: State University of New York Press, 2013).