2009 marked the 400th anniversary of the explorer Henry Hudson sailing the Hudson River. In that year, the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers, New York organized an exhibition on the Dutch colonial experience in the Hudson River Valley and the lasting influence of the Dutch on economics, politics, and culture in the region.
Unfortunately, I never visited the exhibit, which ran from June 2009 to January 2010, so I can offer zero insights and commentary on it as a museum enterprise. However, a colleague recently gave me a copy of the book accompanying the show.
Dutch New York: the Roots of Hudson Valley Culture is edited by Dr. Roger Panetta, a history professor at Fordham University, and it is published by the Fordham University Press. This book is a collection of thirteen essays and is lavishly illustrated with black-and-white prints and color plates.
The essays are grouped together in four categories, each spanning one hundred years: 1609—The Planting; 1709—The Persistence of Dutch Culture; 1809—Romanticizing the Dutch; 1909—Searching for Dutch Heritage; and 2009—What Does Dutch Heritage Mean Today?
The authors detail a broad range of fascinating subjects, including transatlantic commerce, the regional slavery trade, colonial architecture, material culture, Washington Irving, and the Roosevelt family.
In full disclosure, I have yet to read the entire volume. Nonetheless, I am captivated by what I have read and find myself asking more questions about Dutch culture and history in the region. I feel as if I am discovering a rich, new world.
Simply put, this book is a real gem and a great surprise for anyone who loves art, history, or literature. Or, in my case, all three.